West Bengal election 2021 LIVE Updates: Sporadic incidents of violence were reported on Thursday from various parts of West Bengal where voting is underway for the sixth phase of assembly elections
West Bengal election 2021 LATEST Updates: Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday sought to punch a hole in West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's oft-repeated insider-outsider narrative, alleging that her "vote bank of illegal immigrants", on whose support she wants to rule the state, was the actual outsiders.
According to EC data, the highest polling percentage till 4 pm was reported from Purba Bardhaman at 75.20% followed by Uttar Dinajpur at 72.1%
In Uttar Dinajpur's Chopra area, shots were reportedly fired after clashes broke out between activists of the TMC and the BJP. Both the parties denied using any firearm.
According to the EC data on voting percentage during phase 6 of Bengal polls, the turnout climbed up to 57.30 percent at 1.30 pm from 37.27 percent at 11 am on Thursday.
While south Bengal is traditionally a TMC bastion, the BJP was able to make inroads in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls through the North 24 Parganas district with the promise to implement CAA. The district is made up of 33 Assembly constituencies and Mamata won 27 of them in 2016.
Sporadic violence was reported from Bijpur, where TMC and BJP supporters clashed with each other outside polling booths. Both the parties accused each other of trying to rig votes.
Amit Shah on a visit to Thakurbari pilgrimage site for the Matua community in February, assured that the implementation of CAA was only delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The BJP national vice president voted during the sixth phase of state Assembly polls at booth number 141 - at Kanchrapara Municipal Polytechnic High School - in Kanchrapara of North 24 Parganas district.
Senior BJP leaders like Mukul Roy is contesting from Krishnanagar Uttar and Rahul Sinha from Habra.
Sitting MLAs of the Samyukt Morcha, Ali Imran Ramz of All India Forward Bloc, is contesting from Chakulia in Uttar Dinjapur and Tanmoy Bhattacharya of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) from Dum Dum Uttar.
In North 24 Parganas and also in parts of Nadia like Bongaon Uttar, Bongaon Dakshin, Swarupnagar, Bagda and Krishnanagar Dakshin, there is a high concentration of Matua population.
During the sixth phase of Bengal Assembly polls, polling will be held in both Uttar Dinajpur and Bardhaman Purba districts of north Bengal, Nadia and North 24 Parganas districts of south Bengal.
Polling for 43 constituencies in the sixth phase of the West Bengal Assembly Election will begin today at 7 am with COVID-19 precautions and tight security. The election will seal the fate of 306 candidates spread across four districts North 24 Parganas, Nadia, Uttar Dinajpur and Purba Bardhaman.
Over one crore voters are set to exercise their franchise in today's elections at 14,480 polling stations. Of the total voters, 53.21 lakh are men, 50.65 lakh are women while 256 belong to the third gender
Security measures have been heightened in view of the violence in the previous phases, particularly the killing of five people in Cooch Behar during the fourth phase of polling on 10 April, an Election Commission official told news agency PTI. Four people were killed in firing by the CISF while one person was killed by miscreants.
To ensure free and fair voting in the sixth phase, the Election Commission has decided to deploy at least 1,071 companies of Central forces, he said. It will also put in place measures to ensure strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols during the voting process, the official said.
West Bengal on Tuesday registered its highest-single- day spike of 9,819 new COVID-19 cases, taking the state's total case count to 6,78,172, while the toll rose to 10,652 with 46 more succumbing to the disease.
Matua strongholds to vote today
Assembly seats in the Matua strongholds of Bongaon and Krishnanagar, close to the India-Bangladesh border, are among the segments going to the polls today.
Matuas, who make up a large portion of Bengal's Scheduled Caste population, had been migrating to the state since the 1950s, primarily due to religious persecution in erstwhile East Pakistan and later Bangladesh.
Both the ruling Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have pitched hard to gain the confidence of the Matuas in most of the 17 Assembly segments going to polls in this phase in North 24 Parganas district and some of the nine seats in Nadia.
Apart from the implementation of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), two other aspects — identity politics and regional development — have also emerged as decisive factors this election, with bitter rivals TMC and the BJP seeking to woo the community with several promises.
Apart from constituencies in North 24 Parganas and Nadia, elections will be held in nine seats in Uttar Dinajpur district and eight in Purba Bardhaman.
Prominent names in the sixth phase of the polls include BJP's national vice president Mukul Roy (Krishnanagar North), TMC ministers Jyotipriyo Mallick (Habra) and Chandrima Bhattacharya and CPM leader Tanmay Bhattacharya (Dum Dum Uttar).
The political fate of film director Raj Chakraborty and actor Koushani Mukherjee, who are the TMC's candidates from the Barrackpore and the Krishnanagar North constituencies respectively, will also be decided in this phase of the election.
Election follows curtailed campaigning
A tough contest between the ruling TMC and its main rival BJP is on the cards.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP chief JP Nadda and Bollywood star Mithun Chakraborty led the campaign of the saffron party, which has fortified into TMC's main challenger in this election.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee spearheaded the TMC campaign along with her nephew and party's youth wing chief Abhishek Banerjee.
However, the Election Commission curtailed the daily campaign hours and extended the "silence period" from 48 hours to 72 hours in each of the remaining three phases of the election in view of the Cooch Behar violence and the rising COVID-19 cases in the state.
Given the surge in cases, political leaders and parties also called off their rallies or decided to hold them on a smaller scale.
Following criticism from rival parties, the BJP on Monday announced that it will limit attendance at all public rallies of its leaders to 500 people.
Banerjee had also decided to curtail her public meetings in all districts and hold only one rally in Kolkata o 26 April while Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had days before testing positive, announced that all his rallies stand suspended.
Last week, the CPM had also announced the cancellation of its rallies for the remaining three phases of the West Bengal polls.
Meanwhile, the TMC urged the Election Commission to club the last three phases of the Assembly polls, which the poll panel rejected as not implementable.
Elections have been held in 180 constituencies so far, and the remaining 114 seats are set to go to polls between 22 and 29 April. Votes will be counted on 2 May.
With inputs from PTI