Bypolls: 70% polling recorded

Almost 70 per cent polling was recorded in three Assembly constituencies of the state— Nalhati in Birbhum, Rejinagar in Murshidabad and Englishbazar in Malda — in the state on Saturday.

According to the official records, the two stronghold seats of Congress — Rejinagar and Englishbazar — received maximum votes with 76 per cent polling.

Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta said: "According to the reports we have received from the districts, around 76 per cent votes were polled at both Englishbazar and Rejinagar; while 72 percent polling was reported at Nalhati." The percentage of votes cast could further rise as there were people lined up at polling stations till reports came in at 5 pm, said Gupta.

The polling was "absolutely peaceful" and there was no report of any clashes or incidences of violence, he added.

Re-polling can be declared at booth number 186 in Nalhati constituency due to some problems related to the electronic voting machine, said Gupta. "We are waiting for the report of the election observer from Nalhati. After we receive the report, it will be finally decided," Gupta said.

The counting of the votes will be held in three district headquarters on February 28.

The by-elections were held in these three constituencies after sitting Congress legislators from Rejinagar and Englishbazar left the party and joined the Trinamool Congress and the Nalhati seat fell vacant after Congress legislator Abhijit Mukherjee won the election at Jangipur parliamentary seat, vacated by his father Pranab Mukherjee, who was elected President of India.

Nalhati seat has eight contestants in the fray, there are 10 contestants at Rejinagar and the Englishbazar seat has six contestants.

The elections could prove a litmus test for both Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress and the Congress. The alliance of the two parties ended last September. The results of the bypoll elections are crucial for the ruling party as well as the Congress as it would decide the trend of Bengal politics at present which will carry a huge significance during the rural polls in the state which is due in May.

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