Bypolls are being conducted in three assembly constituencies of West Bengal – Bhabanipur, Samserganj, and Jangipur — today. But all eyes are on South Kolkata's Bhabanipur seat from where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is contesting against her Bharatiya Janata Party rival Priyanka Tibrewal.
Polling began at 7 am and will end at 6.30 pm. The counting of votes will take place on October 3.
After losing Nandigram to BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari during the West Bengal Assembly election earlier this year, Banerjee has to win the seat to retain the chief minister's post as she isn't an MLA right now.
Article 164(4) of the Constitution states that "a minister who for any period of six consecutive months is not a member of the Legislature of the State shall at the expiration of that period cease to be a minister".
Bengal Agriculture Minister Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay vacated the Bhabanipur seat for Banerjee, who won the constituency in the 2011 and 2016 elections. According to political experts, she is predicted to win the seat this time too.
Also read | Click here for live updates on Bhabanipur bypoll
Her major opponent, 41-year-old Tibrewal, is a lawyer and the vice-president of the West Bengal unit of BJP Yuva Morcha. The third major contender for the seat is CPI-M's Srijib Biswas, also a lawyer.
Given the high stakes, the Election Commission has deployed 20 companies of central forces in addition to the state police teams to ensure a peaceful by-election.
After directions from the EC, the Kolkata Police also imposed Section 144 of CrPC (prohibiting the gathering of four or more people in a specified area) in the 200-metre radius of polling booths in Bhabanipur.
Earlier today, Tibrewal accused Trinamool Congress (TMC) MLA Madan Mitra of shutting down voting machines in Bhabanipur. Speaking to ANI, she said, "Madan Mitra has purposely shut the voting machine here as he wants to capture the booth."
Meanwhile, in Bengal's Samserganj constituency, bombs were hurled hours before polling began. This seat is witnessing a triangular fight between TMC's Amirul Islam, BJP's Milan Ghosh, and CPI-M's Md Modasar Hossain.
Similarly, the Jangipur seat is also witnessing a triangular fight between TMC's Jakir Hossain, BJP's Sujit Das, and CPI-M's Jane Alam Migya.
Bypoll is also being held in Odisha's Pipli today. In Pipli, BJD's Rudra Pratap Maharathy, BJP's Ashrit Patnaik, and Congress' Biswokehan Harichandan Mohapatra are in the fray.
First Published: IST