Voting for the eighth and final phase of the West Bengal elections began at 7 am and concluded around 6.30 pm on Wednesday. Thirty-five constituencies across the districts of Murshidabad, Malda, Kolkata and Birbhum voted in this phase.
More than 84 lakh voters elected from 285 candidates in the fray. A voter turnout of 76.07% was recorded till 6 pm, Election Commission data showed.
The results will be announced on May 2.
Multiple exit polls showed that the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress will come back to power in the state. However, the Bharatiya Janata Party will make gains in the vote share.
Voting occurred for the eight-phased elections as India reels under the second wave of the Covid-19 crisis. On Wednesday, West Bengal recorded 17,207 new cases in 24 hours – its highest case count since the outbreak began in India in January 2020.
The Trinamool Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and a third front, comprising of the Left parties, Congress and the Indian Secular Front are in the fray.
Here are the top updates of the day:
9.35 pm: The Trinamool Congress is likely to secure 44% of vote share and 43% will got to the BJP in West Bengal, predicts the India Today-Axis My India voter survey.
9.32 pm: The India Today Axis exit poll forecasts 130 to 156 seats for the Trinamool Congress, 134 to 160 constituencies for the BJP and two seats for the Left front.
7.44 pm: The Republic TV-CNX exit poll predicts 128 to 138 seats for the Trinamool Congress, 138 to 148 constituencies for the BJP and 11 to 21 for the Congress-Left alliance in West Bengal, reports The Indian Express
7.37 pm: The ABP News C-voter exit poll predicts that the BJP will secure a 39% vote share in West Bengal. In 2016, the party got 10% of the vote share.
7.30 pm: The Times Now-CVoter exit poll says the BJP may secure 115 seats in West Bengal and 158 will go to the Trinamool Congress.
7.28 pm: A poll of all the exit polls, put together by news channel NDTV, gives 157 seats to the Trinamool Congress, 16 to the Left and 120 to the BJP.
7.10 pm: The ABP News C-voter exit poll predicts 152 to 164 seats for the Trinamool Congress, 14 to 25 seats for the Left and 109 to 121 seats for the BJP, reports NDTV.
7.08 pm: Exit polls numbers come in for West Bengal and Assam.
6.21 pm: Polling has been held peacefully today across 11,860 stations across 35 Assembly constituencies, in the final phase of West Bengal elections, reports ANI, citing the Election Commission.
6.14 pm: The state has recorded 76.07% voter turnout as of 6.14 pm, the Election Commission data shows.
4.01 pm: A voter turnout of 68.46% was recorded till 4 pm, the Election Commission data shows.
3.45 pm: Congress’s West Bengal unit chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury casts his vote at a polling booth in Murshidabad, reports ANI.
1.57 pm: Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Tarakeshwar Saha reportedly sustains injuries after his vehicle is ransacked in the Nanoor constituency of Birbhum district, reports The Times of India.
1.56 pm: Residents gherao Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Kalyan Choubey during his visit to the polling booths in Maniktala constituency of Kolkata, reported The Times of India.
1.54 pm: Long queue of voters seen outside most polling booths since early morning, according to India Today.
1.47 pm: Police disperse a crowd using baton charge after clashes break out in Beliaghata area, reports PTI. Two men, who identified as Bharatiya Janata Party activists, alleged that they were beaten up by Trinamool Congress workers during the clash.
1.44 pm: A police officer says one person was killed and two others injured after a car hit them in Murshidabad district, reports PTI. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) alleged that its member Kader Mondal was killed after Trinamool Congress candidate Jafikul Islam ran his car over them. Islam dismissed the allegations, saying that he was nowhere near the site of the incident. Chief Election Officer Aariz Aftab has sought a report from district authorities on the matter.
1.42 pm: Stray incidents of violence reported during the voting, according to PTI.
12.12 pm: West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and his wife Sudesh Dhankhar cast their votes at a polling booth in Kolkata.
12 pm: West Bengal has recorded a voter turnout of 37.80% till now, according to the Election Commission.
10.18 am: Gopal Chandra Saha, the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate from Malda, cast his vote at a polling booth in his constituency, reports ANI. “There was a public rally on April 18 in Sahapur where I was shot and taken to hospital,” he says. “It was done by either by TMC [Trinamool Congress] or Congress goons. There is ‘jungle raj’”.
10.10 am: A voter turnout of 16.04% is recorded till 10.09 am, Election Commission data shows.
10.08 am: A bomb was hurled in near Mahajati Sadan Auditorium in north Kolkata, reports ANI. The Election Commission has sought a report on the incident.
8.40 am: Prime Minister Narendra Modi urges voters to cast their franchise in line with Covid protocols.
8.30 am: The state’s Consumer Affairs Minister Sadhan Pandey is another TMC leader who will be followed closely. Pandey is up against former India footballer and BJP candidate Kalyan Chaubey and the CPI(M)’s Rupa Bagchi in Maniktala in Kolkata district, according to The Indian Express.
8.15 am: The main parties in the fray are the Trinamool Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the Left front comprising the Congress and the Community Party of India (Marxist).
Some prominent faces fighting in this phase include state Minister for Women and Child Development and Social Welfare Shashi Panja, who is contesting against the BJP’s Sandipan Biswas in Shyampukur, The Indian Express reports.
8 am: Some initial glitches were reported in Birbhum district, according to ANI.
7.50 am: The Beleghata, Jorsanko, Shyampukur, Maniktala and Kashipur-Belgachia seats in Kolkata are expected to see close fights, according to The Indian Express.
7.45 am: On Monday, the Madras High Court also criticised the Election Commission and said it should be booked on charges of murder for allowing rallies to continue in poll-bound states, despite an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases in the country. “Were you on another planet when the election rallies were held?” the court asked. “Your institution is singularly responsible for the second wave of the pandemic.”
7.40 am: The wife of Trinamool Congress candidate Kajal Sinha had filed a complaint of murder against the Election Commission. Sinha’s wife, Nandita Sinha, has accused Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain and other officials of the poll panel of “careless and negligent” behaviour, which caused her husband’s death. Nandita Sinha’s police complaint alleged that the Election Commission had “self-serving blind motives” as the country dealt with the coronavirus crisis.
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7.35 am: Within a span of 10 days, four politicians contesting in the Assembly elections have died due to Covid-19. Independent politician Samir Ghosh, who was contesting from Baisnabnagar in West Bengal’s Malda district died on Monday night.
Trinamool Congress leader Kajal Sinha, a candidate from Khardah in the North 24 Parganas district, Revolutionary Socialist Party politician Pradip Kumar, who was running from Jangipur Assembly seat in Murshidabad district, and Rezaul Haque, the Congress candidate from the Samserganj constituency in Murshidabad district, have also succumbed to the infection.
On April 17, incumbent TMC MLA from Murarai in Birbhum district Abdur Rahman died of Covid-19. However, he was not contesting the state Assembly elections this time.
7.30 am: The voting is taking place under the cloud of the coronavirus crisis. On Wednesday, West Bengal recorded 17,207 new cases in 24 hours. This was its highest ever case count.
While the country battled with a record surge in Covid-19 cases for days during the second wave and hospitals ran out of beds and oxygen, politicians were holding election rallies attended by thousands with little evidence of masks or physical distancing.
In West Bengal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah held gigantic rallies until last week, when the Election Commission finally banned all roadshows and limited gatherings to 500 people amid the worsening situation.
After the fourth round of elections in West Bengal, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) had announced that it will not organise big election rallies for the remaining phases. Congress MP Rahul Gandhi cancelled his rallies in West Bengal and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also decided to hold smaller election meetings. Shah, however, said that it was not right to link the surge in coronavirus cases in India to elections.
7.15 am: Repolling will also be held in Sitalkuchi constituency in Cooch Behar, which was marred by violence. On April 10, four persons were killed in Sitalkuchi after the central security forces opened fire at a polling booth during the fourth phase of voting, following a clash with locals. In a separate incident, another person was shot dead after he was dragged outside a polling booth.
The Trinamool Congress said that the four people who were killed belonged to the party, and alleged a large conspiracy behind the attack. But the Election Commission ruled out any such possibility, saying the security forces had no option but to open fire to save their lives and government property.
Following the violence, the Election Commission had adjourned voting at one of the polling booths in Sitalkuchi. The poll panel also banned politicians from entering Cooch Behar district for the next three days. On April 16, the West Bengal Crime Investigation Department took over the inquiry into the killings.
7 am: Voting for the eighth and final phase of the West Bengal elections begins.
Thirty-five constituencies across the districts of Murshidabad, Malda, Kolkata and Birbhum go to the polls in this phase. There are 11 seats each in Murshidabad and Birbhum, while seven in Kolkata and six in Malda. More than 84 lakh electors are expected to exercise their franchise to elect from 285 candidates.
The results will be announced on May 2.