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Election

79 percent polling in Bengal’s third phase, one dead in violence

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Assam Polls

Kolkata, April 21 : Amid incidents of violence that left one person dead and several others injured, West Bengal saw over 79 percent votes cast in 62 constituencies on Thursday in phase three of the assembly elections.

Amid sweltering heat, incidents of violence were reported in parts of Murshidabad, Nadia, Kolkata and Burdwan districts, while the Left Front and the Congress demanded repolling in 15 booths of Domkal constituency.

The constituencies that went to polls included 22 in Murshidabad, 17 in Nadia, 16 in Burdwan districts and seven in north Kolkata.

“At 5 p.m., the overall polling percentage was 79.22 percent,” Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta said.

The turnout in Murshidabad was 79.29 percent, Nadia 81.62 percent, Burdwan 78.26 percent, and Kolkata (North) 57.06 percent,” said Gupta.

Tahidul Islam, said to be a Communist Party of India-Marxist activist, was killed in Domkal of Murshidabad district. However, Additional Director General of Police Anuj Sharma said according to the FIR, the victim’s name was Tahidul Mondal.

Ten people were injured in various incidents, while 232 people were arrested, he said. “Of them, 169 were arrested in the districts and 63 in Kolkata. The number of arrests under preventive sections of the Indian Penal Code was 225, while seven others had specific cases against them.”

Gupta said seven presiding officers were removed for “inefficiency and to speed up the polling process”.

A block Level Officer, Rabindranath Ghosh, died of heatstroke in Mangalkot constituency of Burdwan district.

Election Commission officials received 2,777 complaints, including of violence, voter intimidation and disruption of the poll process. Altogetehr 2,322 complaints have been disposed off.

Regarding the killing in Domkal, the district administration in its report to the Election Commission said Tahidul did not die “in any clash or bomb blast“.

“The body of Tahidul Islam was found 500 metres away from Haridoba Notunpara with a sharp cut injury. Apparently, he was murdered by unknown people and the body was placed on the road.”

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) candidate from Domkal Anisur Rahaman claimed that Tahidul was his polling agent and blamed the Trinamool Congress for the killing. But the ruling party claimed the death was a result of a clash between the CPI-M and Congress supporters. The district administration denied that Tahidul was a polling agent.

At least four others were attacked in Domkal allegedly for casting their votes.

Reports of violence were also received from Ketugram in Burdwan district where three people were injured after crude bombs were hurled near a polling booth.

Several crude bombs were also seized from near a booth at Saguna in Nadia district.

Voters in Chakdaha in Nadia district alleged they were “prevented from voting by Trinamool goons”.

At least four people were injured in Mangalkote of Burdwan with Trinamool’s Siddiqullah Chowdhury accusing the CPI-M for the attack.

Complaints of voter intimidation and scuffles between rival political activists were also received from several booths in Kolkata, including Beliaghta and Entally. A mediaperson was among the injured.

Union Minister Babul Supriyo was seen chasing a “drunkard” in a lane of north Kolkata’s Jorasanko constituency and handing him over to the police. Supriyo is a voter of the constituency.

Accusing the ruling Trinamool of indulging in “massive rigging” and booth capturing in Domkal, the alliance partners demanded repoll in 15 polling booths.

Left Front spearhead CPI-M state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra said there were disturbances in six-seven constituencies.

“We think there should be repoll in 15 polling booths of Domkal constituency,” said Mishra, whose demand was seconded by state Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

However, Mishra expressed overall satisfaction over the role of the Election Commission.

Over 1.37 crore (1,37,42,000) voters were eligible to elect their legislators across 16,461 polling stations, including 10 auxiliary booths, from among 418 candidates, including 34 women.

The ruling Trinamool and the Bharatiya Janata Party are contesting all 62 constituencies in the third phase.

The Left Front-Congress alliance is in fray for all the 62 constituencies. But the Congress nominees are also clashing with those from the Left Front in 11 seats — 10 in Murshidabad and one in Nadia.

Among the major candidates in the third phase are state ministers and Trinamool contestants Rabiranjan Chattopadhyay, Sashi Panja, Sadhan Pandey, former state minister and CPI-M candidates Anisur Rahaman and Debesh Das, Congress legislature party leader Mohammad Sohrab and former state party president Somendranath Mitra, and BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha.

Earlier voters in 105 of the state’s total 294 assembly constituencies exercised their right to franchise on April 4, 11 and 17 in the first two phases.

Polling in the fourth, fifth and sixth phases will be held on April 25, 30 and May 5 for 49, 53 and 25 constituencies respectively.

Election

Congress forms 5-party Mahagathbandhan to take on BJP in Assam

AIUDF General Secretary Aminul Islam said the Mahagathbandhan is good for Assam as it would fulfil the expectations of the people of the state and throw the BJP out of power.

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BJP and Congress Flag Poster

Guwahati, Jan 20: The opposition Congress on Tuesday announced a five-party ‘Mahagathbandhan’ to take on the ruling BJP-led coalition in Assam in the upcoming Assembly elections expected to be held in April-May.

Announcing the Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance), Assam Congress President Ripun Bora said that his party would contest the elections in alliance with the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the three Left parties – Communist Party of India-Marxist, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) – and the Anchalik Gana Morcha (AGM).

He said that regional parties are welcome to join the Mahagathbandhan to oust the Bharatiya Janata Party from power in the state.

“The Congress is always keen to oust all communal forces for the best interest of the country. People are ready to vote out the BJP as its misgovernance caused a lot of distress to the people, who have become fed up with the BJP,” he said.

AIUDF General Secretary Aminul Islam said the Mahagathbandhan is good for Assam as it would fulfil the expectations of the people of the state and throw the BJP out of power.

AGM President Ajit Kumar Bhuyan, also a Rajya Sabha member, termed the formation of the grand alliance as a historic moment. He sounded optimistic that the grand alliance would defeat the BJP in the forthcoming elections.

Besides the AIUDF, a Muslim-dominated party in Assam, and the Left parties, state Congress leaders had held several meetings in the past few months with the ‘like minded parties’.

AIUDF President and Lok Sabha member Maulana Badruddin Ajmal has been stating that the two parties (Congress and AIUDF) have decided to contest the Assembly polls together since their tie-up for the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) polls held last month.

Recently, interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi had appointed three central leaders — Bhupesh Baghel (Chhattisgarh Chief Minister), Mukul Wasnik (AICC General Secretary) and Shakeel Ahmed Khan (Bihar MLA) — to oversee the election campaign in Assam in close coordination with the AICC general secretaries and the party in-charge for the state.

Baghel and other central leaders held meetings with the state party leaders in Guwahati before Assam Congress chief announced the Mahagathbandhan.

The Congress had suffered a setback in the recent elections to the BTC and the Tiwa Autonomous Council. Two of its MLAs – Ajanta Neog and Rajdeep Goala – had joined the BJP last month, delivering another blow to the party.

In the 2016 Assam assembly elections, the Congress had contested on its own without an electoral alliance with any party, securing 24 seats.

After the last Assembly polls, the BJP formed the government in Assam for the first time after winning 60 seats following the formation of an alliance with the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which won 14 and 12 seats, respectively. The ruling alliance also has the support of an Independent MLA.

The 126-member Assam Assembly is likely to go to the polls in April-May along with West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.

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Election

Sonia forms 10-member election panel for Kerala chaired by Chandy

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Sonia Gandhi in Cong meeting

New Delhi, Jan 20: Eyeing the assembly polls in Kerala, the Congress on Tuesday announced a 10-member Election Management and Strategy Committee under the leadership of former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy as its chairperson along with senior party members like Shashi Tharoor and K. C. Venugopal.

Venugopal, who is the party’s General Secretary (Organisations) in a statement said that party chief Sonia Gandhi has approved the appointment of Election Management and Strategy Committee of Kerala Congress for the upcoming assembly elections with immediate effect.

He further said that the Committee shall meet frequently to discuss matters related to electioneering, co-ordination and formulation of election strategies.

Besides Chandy, Tharoor and Venugopal, the party has also named Mullapallay Ramachandran, Ramesh Chennithala, Tariq Anwar, K. Muraleedharan, V.M. Sudheeran, K. Sudhakaran and Kodikkunnil Suresh as the panel members.

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Election

Bengal: Left, Congress leaders hold talks; to finalise candidates by Jan end

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Congress

Kolkata, Jan 18: Top leaders of the CPI(M)-led Left Front and the Congress conducted a meeting here on Sunday to discuss the seat-sharing and other election-related strategies, leaders of both the parties said, adding that their candidates would be finalised by the end of this month.

However, both the Congress and Left leaders said that they would hold more such meetings this month to finalise the candidates’ list for the upcoming Assembly elections, expected to be held in April-May.

Both the party leaders would meet again on January 25 and 28 to settle the seat-sharing issue and other poll-related preparedness.

In 2016 West Bengal Assembly polls, the two parties had forged an alliance and won 76 seats in the 294-member Assembly.

Post meeting, Left Front Chairman and CPI-M politburo member Biman Bose said that their discussion with the Congress was cordial and fruitful.

“To defeat the communal force BJP and the fascist TMC (Trinamool Congress), the Congress-Left parties’ alliance is must. The alliance would definitely thrash the binary rule in Bengal,” the veteran Left leader told the media.

Bose said that leaders and workers of Left parties and Congress should fight against the BJP and the TMC with shoulder to shoulder.

Party sources said that the Congress wanted to contest in 130 seats but the Left leaders did not concede the demand.

Bengal Congress chief and the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Chowdhury said that the seat sharing with the Left parties would not be completed in a single meeting, however, the seat sharing process would be concluded within this month.

CPI-M state secretary Suryakanta Mishra, Congress leaders Abdul Mannan and Pradip Bhattacharjee were present at the meeting.The Left and Congress parties are likely to hold a mega joint rally in Kolkata soon to kick start their election campaign.

The all important elections to the 294-member West Bengal assembly are likely to be held in April-May along with Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.In the 2016 West Bengal polls,

Trinamool had retained its majority and won 211 seats while the Bharatiya Janata Party won three seats.

However, in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Left and Congress had fought separately with the Congress won two seats, the Left Front dominated by the CPI-M, which ruled Bengal for 34 years (1977-2011), drew a blank.

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