64 percent turnout in Howrah by-poll

Kolkata, June 2 (IANS) With around 64 percent turnout, a largely peaceful voting for the Howrah Lok Sabha by-poll in West Bengal concluded Sunday, officials said.

“Around 64 percent turnout was reported … which might go up slightly with polling still going on at a few booths,” said Joint Chief Election Officer Saibal Barman.

Claiming that voting was “largely peaceful”, Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta said the election commission received 31 polling-related complaints.

“The polling in the 1,851 booths was largely peaceful with reports of minor complaints in a few booths where the security personnel had to intervene,” Gupta told mediapersons here.

Two camera-mounted special vehicles provided live feed of the polling booths to the monitoring staff of the commission and Gupta said the new successful system would be repeated in future polls.

The by-poll was a three-way contest between the Trinamool Congress and its former ally the Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

The poll was necessitated following the death of Trinamool Congress MP Ambica Banerjee April 25.

While the Trinamool Congress has fielded former international footballer Prasun Banerjee, advocate Sanatan Mukherjee is contesting on the Congress ticket, and Sridip Bhattacharya is the candidate of the CPI-M-led Left Front.

Both Congress and the CPI-M have accused the Trinamool of using muscle power to intimidate voters as well as not allowing the polling officers to function independently.

State Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya said complaints have been made to the EC regarding the “pressure tactics” of Trinamool.

CPI-M’s Sridip Bhattacharya too claimed that there were instances of “booth capturing” by the Trinamool.

With over 14 lakhs voters eligible to exercise their franchise, around 30 companies of central security forces along with police had been deployed for the poll.

Though it announced its candidate, the Bharatiya Janata Party later withdrew from the election, resulting in the Congress and the Left accusing the Trinamool Congress of having a “tacit understanding” with the BJP.

The result of the election will be out Wednesday.

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