Polling in Nandigram, Sujapur ends peacefully (Second lead)

January 5th, 2009 - 10:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Jan 5 (IANS) The by-election in two West Bengal assembly constituencies - troubled Nandigram in East Midnapore district and Malda’s Sujapur - ended peacefully Monday with more than 80 percent of voters exercising their franchise.”More than 81 percent of votes were cast in Nandigram and 82 percent in Sujapur till 5 p.m. today. There were long queues in front of some booths even after the sheduled polling time was over,” a senior state Election Commission (EC) officer told IANS.

“We expect this figure to rise by 1-2 percent after completion of the by-election process,” the officer said.

“There’s been no report of any violence or untoward incident in either of the constituencies. The poll process ended peacefully,” the officer said. The election process was put on hold for almost an hour as an electronic voting machine (EVM) in Nandigram’s Osmanchak poling station developed a technical snag.

“Later, the machine was replaced,” he said.

State Inspector General of police (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia said: “An adequate number of paramilitary forces were deployed at all polling booths in Nandigram and Sujapur to avert any violence during the election. But overall polling was peaceful.”

The votes will be counted Jan 9.

According to the police, all the 176 booths in Nandigram, which witnessed spiralling violence over proposed land acquisition for industry in 2007, were declared sensitive.

At least 15 companies of paramilitary forces, comprising Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Border Security Force (BSF), were deployed in the constituency.

“We’re hopeful of winning in Nandigram. It’s a traditional Left bastion. Since more than 80 percent of people have voted, I think the Left Front (LF) will win the seat,” Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) East Midnapore district secretariat member Ashok Guria said.

State LF chairman Biman Bose said many voters were threatened by opposition Trinamool Congress activists and asked not to cast their votes.

“Our people were threatened of dire consequences and asked not to come out and vote for the LF candidate. I don’t know how come it was possible amid such unprecedented security blanket,” Bose told reporters in the state capital.

A large number of observers were present in the polling booths in the troubled East Midnapore constituency, which has 180,000 voters.

Senior Trinamool Congress leader Subhendu Adhikari said people had voted freely in Nandigram this time.

“We are quite hopeful to win this seat. I think people will elect Trinamool Congress in Nandigra,” Adhikari added.

In Sujapur, there were around 12 companies of paramilitary forces. Additional police personnel from adjoining districts such as Murshidabad, Jalpaiguri and North and South Dinajpur districts were also called in to help maintain law and order there.

For the Nandigram by-poll, the Trinamool Congress fielded Firoza Bibi, who lost her younger son Indadur allegedly in the March 14, 2007, police firing.

Left Front constituent Communist Party of India (CPI), whose representative Sheikh Mohammed Illias won the seat in 2006, named Paramananda Bharati, a veteran teacher of the area, as its candidate.

Illias resigned his seat following his alleged involvement in a bribery case. A sting operation by a television channel showed him apparently accepting a bribe of Rs.10,000 from an NGO for development work in his area.

In Sujapur, the by-election was necessitated by the death of Congress lawmaker Rubi Noor, sister of late Congress leader Ghani Khan Choudhury, in July last year.

The main contest is expected to be between CPI-M candidate Haji Ketabuddin and Congress candidate Mausam Benazir Noor, daughter of the deceased legislator.

“Everything was fine. The election was peaceful,” Noor said.

The Trinamool Congress decided not to field its candidate for the seat as a tribute to the late Congress leader Ghani Khan Choudhury.

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