62 pc voter turnout registered in Bengal bypolls

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Kolkata, Jul 10 (PTI) A voter turnout of 62.71 per cent was recorded till 5 pm on Wednesday in the bypolls to four assembly constituencies in West Bengal, an Election Commission official said.

Among the constituencies, Raiganj witnessed the highest turnout at 67.12 per cent, followed by Ranaghat Dakshin at 65.37 per cent, Bagdah at 65.15 per cent and Maniktala at 51.39 per cent.

According to Election Commission officials, turnout may increase further as queues were observed outside polling booths.

Sporadic incidents of violence were reported from Bagdah, Maniktala and Ranaghat Dakshin as the BJP accused TMC activists of assaulting its booth agents and stopping its candidates from visiting some polling stations.

BJP candidates Manoj Kumar Biswas and Binay Kumar Biswas from Ranaghat Dakshin and Badgah respectively claimed that they were not allowed to visit some booths.

"I was stopped from visiting the booths after I got complaints that BJP workers were being beaten up by TMC goons," Binay Kumar Biswas said.

Manoj Kumar Biswas alleged that BJP camp offices in some areas were ransacked by the TMC. BJP's Maniktala candidate Kalyan Chaubey also faced protests and was greeted with "go back" slogans by alleged TMC activists as he tried to enter a booth in the constituency. Later on, the security personnel dispersed the crowd.

Chaubey, later in the evening went to the office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) and demanded repolling in 89 booths.

"Few women activists of the BJP along with some TMC goons surrounded me and gave "go back" slogans. I have demanded repolling in 89 booths as the TMC has turned the bypolls into a farce," he said.

The TMC denied the allegations and dubbed them as "baseless".

"The BJP knows it will lose the polls, so they are making those excuses. The people of Bengal are with the TMC, this was proven in the Lok Sabha polls and will be proven again in the bypolls," TMC leader Kunal Ghosh said.

The TMC in the last Lok Sabha polls won 29 seats, whereas the BJP won 12 and the Congress won one seat.

The BJP also lodged a complaint with the Election Commission against the alleged irregularities in the three constituencies.

Voting started at 7 am and will continue till 6 pm. Three of the constituencies - Maniktala in Kolkata, Ranaghat Dakshin, and Bagdah in North 24 Parganas - are located in the southern part of the state.

The fourth assembly constituency, Raiganj, is situated in north Bengal's Uttar Dinajpur district.

There are around 10 lakh electorates in the four assembly segments. The BJP bagged Ranaghat Dakshin and Bagdah seats in the 2021 assembly polls.

Raiganj was won by the saffron camp in the last assembly elections. The Maniktala seat was secured by the TMC in 2021 but it became vacant after former state minister Sadhan Pandey died in February 2022.

Despite the BJP winning the other three seats in 2021, the MLAs later switched to the TMC.

The bypolls were necessitated as Krishna Kalyani from Raiganj, Biswajit Das from Bagdah and Mukut Mani Adhikari from Ranaghat Dakshin gave up their seats to contest the Lok Sabha elections.

The Election Commission has deployed around 70 companies of security forces to secure 1,097 polling booths spread across the four seats. The counting of votes will take place on July 13. PTI SUS SCH PNT BDC RG

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