Section 144 imposed in poll-bound Bhabanipur till voting ends on September 30

Published on Sep 28, 2021 08:36 PM IST

Amid reports of violence, the Election Commission has imposed Section 144 in Bhabanipur assembly constituency, prohibiting the movement of five or more people in the area.

BJP and TMC supporters clash during an election campaign in Bhabanipur, Kolkata. (ANI Photo)(Saikat Paul)
BJP and TMC supporters clash during an election campaign in Bhabanipur, Kolkata. (ANI Photo)(Saikat Paul)
By | Written by Sharmita Kar | Edited by Avik Roy, New Delhi

Ahead of the crucial Bhabanipur bypolls, the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Tuesday imposed Section 144 in the assembly constituency in the heart of Kolkata. The prohibitory order against the assembly of five or more people will remain in force from 6:30pm on Tuesday till the end of the poll on September 30, the EC notification stated. The Bhabanipur assembly bypoll was necessitated after West Bengal agriculture minister Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay vacated the seat recently.

Although Trinamool Congress won the assembly elections with a thumping majority and formed the government in West Bengal for the third consecutive time, chief minister Mamata Banerjee lost against Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Suvendu Adhikari from Nandigram assembly constituency. Chattopadhyay’s resignation paved the way for Banerjee to contest from the seat she had won in the 2011 and 2016 elections, to continue to hold the chief ministerial post.

Meanwhile, the BJP accused the Trinamool Congress of fanning violence ahead of the bypolls. BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh alleged that he was attacked by TMC workers during the last day of the campaign for the September 30 bypoll. He also alleged that one of the BJP workers who were accompanying him during campaigning was also beaten up. On the other hand, the Trinamool Congress rubbished the charges and said the BJP was trying to foment unrest ahead of the polls.

Subsequently, the West Bengal BJP unit wrote to the Chief Electoral Officer of the state demanding a ‘free and fair’ poll in the Bhabanipur constituency. In the letter, the BJP also alleged that its candidate for the Bhabanipur bypoll, Priyanka Tibrewal, was "molested" by the deputy commissioner of police of Kolkata's South division.

The BJP urged the EC to impose Section 144 in the constituency to ensure no untoward incident or malpractice takes place during polling.

Calcutta high court orders Bhabanipur by-poll to be held as scheduled

The Calcutta high court on Tuesday refused to stay the September 30 Bhabanipur bypoll, stating that the information furnished by the chief secretary of the state to the Election Commission was contrary to the facts regarding Covid-19 restrictions that had been extended up to September 30.

However, the bench, headed by Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj, observed: "We record our strong reservation about the conduct of the Chief Secretary in writing a letter to the Election Commission stating that there would be 'constitutional crisis' in case by-election to the Bhabanipur Constituency is not held."

The court further said that what constitutional crisis the government could face with one person losing or winning the election, was not explained.

Bypoll will be held in the Bhabanipur constituency on September 30 and results will be declared by October 3.

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