regular-article-logo Thursday, 13 June 2024

Bengal Phase 6 voting, Live Updates: All eyes on Suvendu Adhikari, Didi's 'gaddar' but the BJP's mainstay

In 2019, with Adhikari still a minister in the Mamata Banerjee government, the BJP won five of the eight seats where voting is being held on Saturday. The challenge before Adhikari today is to increase the tally

Arnab Ganguly Calcutta Published 25.05.24, 06:49 AM
BJP nominee Pranat Tudu's vehicle was attacked in Garhbeta. Women also pelted stones at central security force personnel

BJP nominee Pranat Tudu's vehicle was attacked in Garhbeta. Women also pelted stones at central security force personnel Screenshot from ABP Ananda footage

  • 77.99 per cent voter turnout recorded till 5 pm in Bengal. Bankura 76.79 per cent; Jhargram 79.68 per cent; Midnapore 77.57 per cent; Bishnupur 81.47 per cent; Purulia 74.09 per cent, Ghatal 78.92 per cent; Contai 75.66 per cent; Tamluk 79.79 per cent
  • 70.19 per cent voter turnout recorded till 3 pm in Bengal. Bankura 67.41 per cent; Jhargram 72.26 per cent; Midnapore 67.91 per cent; Bishnupur 73.55 per cent; Purulia 66.06 per cent, Ghatal 71.34 per cent; Contai 71.36 per cent; Tamluk 71.63 per cent
  • Ghatal: Voters in a Keshpur village allege they are not being allowed to go to the polling booths. Trinamul denies the charges.
  • EC seeks action taken report on Garhbeta incident.
  • Women pelted stones at central security force personnel at Garhbeta.
  • Jhargram: BJP nominee Pranat Tudu's vehicle attacked in Garhbeta. Tudu says he was hit by a brick and sustained injuries. CISF personnel injured in the attack. "Our voters were not allowed to vote. I called the district magistrate at least ten times, but did not get any response. The Trinamul has vitiated the poll process. Where is the administration? I was forced to visit the booth," says Tudu.
  • Leader of Opposition from the BJP Suvendu Adhikari says officials representing the Election Commission in Bengal are incompetent.
  • Tamluk: Central forces disperse crowd with lathis at a booth in Haldia
  • 54.80 per cent voter turnout recorded till 1 pm in Bengal. Bankura 54.21 per cent; Jhargram 56.95 per cent; Midnapore 51.57 per cent; Bishnupur 58.64 per cent; Purulia 50.34 per cent, Ghatal 57.31 per cent; Contai 51.66 per cent; Tamluk 57.64 per cent
  • Bankura and Purulia: Trinamul supporters raise slogans against BJP candidates
  • Midnapore: Trinamul-BJP workers clash at Dantan.
  • Tamluk: Trinamul alleges leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari rigging votes in his constituency Nandigram.
  • Midnapore: BJP nominee Agnimitra Paul involved in an altercation with state police in Keshiary.
  • 36.88 per cent voter turnout recorded till 11 am in Bengal. Tamluk 38.05 per cent; Contai 38.03 per cent; Ghatal 39.21 per cent; Jhargram 38.24 per cent; Midnapore 34.41 per cent; Purulia 33.16 per cent; Bankura 35.84 per cent; Bishnupur 37.98 per cent
  • Ghatal: BJP nominee Hiranmay Chatterjee alleges Mamata Banerjee has turned Keshpur into Pakistan after his vehicle was stopped by Trinamul supporters.
  • 16 per cent voter turnout recorded till 9 am in Bengal. Tamluk 19.07 per cent; Ghatal 18.07 per cent; Bankura 17.69 per cent; Jhargram 16.22 per cent; Contai 15.45 per cent; Midnapore 14.58 per cent; Purulia 12.38 per cent; Bishnupur 18.56 per cent
  • Election Commission receives 364 complaints in first two hours of polling.
  • Tamluk: BJP candidate Abhijit Ganguly heckled at a booth in Haldia.
  • Tamluk: Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari is confident of ex-high court judge Abhijit Ganguly's victory. Adhikari says we could not get Muslim polling agents during the Assembly polls of 2021 in Nandigram. "Barring a few votes. we have got Muslim polling agents. Nandigram will provide substantial lead"
  • Tamluk: Adhikari says, Trinamul has been wiped out in Nandigram.
  • Tamluk: Ganguly says, if they want to raise slogans against me, let them. What can I do? I came here after hearing complaints of false voting. I have informed the Quick Response Team and waiting for them to reach.
  • Tamluk: Trinamul alleges two of its polling agents "abducted" in Nandigram, the constituency of leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari
  • Tamluk: Voters in Nandigram allege local BJP leaders not allowing them to go to the booths, central forces keep mum.
  • Tamluk: BJP candidate Abhijit Ganguly faces Trinamul ire at a booth.
  • Tamluk: BJP candidate Abhijit Ganguly visits injured BJP worker Babulal Mondal at Haldia sub-divisional hospital. Ganguly will visit Nandigram where Mondal and other BJP workers were attacked.
  • Tamluk: CPM alleges two of its polling agents "abducted" in Haldia
  • Midnapore: BJP nominee Agnimitra Paul involved in an altercation with state police in Keshiary.
  • Jhargram: Migrant worker Uttam Mahato on his way home found killed with mutiple stab wounds. Investigation on to find if the murder is linked to the polls.
  • Purulia: In Jhalda BJP nominee Jyotirmoy Singh Mahato caught a man at a booth carrying a woman voter's photo identity card. Trinamul supporters protest against Mahato.
  • Ghatal: Trinamul nominee Dev says polling has been peaceful, expresses satisfaction at turnout.
  • Ghatal: BJP nominee Hiran and police argue over illegal assembly of people at a booth in Keshpur
  • Ghatal: BJP nominee accuses central forces of not protecting a polling agent who was assaulted and asked to leave.
  • Ghatal: Trinamul supporters block BJP candidate Hiranmay Chatterjee's vehicle.
  • Midnapore: Trinamul-BJP workers clash at Dantan.
  • Midnapore: BJP candidate Agnimitra Paul not allowed to enter booth, Trinamul supporters say no opposition candidates will be allowed.
  • Midnapore: Three arrested in murder of Trinamul leader ahead of the sixth phase of polls in Mahishadal
  • Contai: BJP nominee Soumendu Adhikary alleges a Seema Suraksha Bal jawan misbehaved with him at a booth in Bhagabanpur.
  • Contai: BJP candidate Soumendu Adhikari says polling agents not allowed in several booths.
  • Bankura: Trinamul alleges EVM tampering. Lodges complaint with EC on five EVMs found with BJP tags on them.

The focus of the sixth and penultimate phase of polling in Bengal on Saturday is clearly on the BJP's Suvendu Adhikari, Mamata Banerjee's principal challenger who quit her party, the Trinamul Congress in 2020, joined the BJP and went on to defeat her in the state Assembly elections of 2021.

In the run up to voting day, Adhikari, the leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly, has covered around 42,000km, rigorously touring constituencies and delivering over 142 speeches.

Saturday’s polling is Adhikari’s election as it's happening in his own backyard, two constituencies in East Midnapore district and the remaining six in territories that Adhikari had marked as his own after 2007. He had then emerged as the most trusted lieutenant of Mamata Banerjee in her movements against the then Left Front government’s land acquisition bid.

Seventeen years later, Adhikari is the de facto leader of the BJP in Bengal as the party fights hard to improve its tally from the 18 it bagged in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Adhikari has stuck to the road during his travels this poll season, ditching aerial modes of transportation his main rivals, Mamata and Trinamul general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, have used primarily.

TTO Graphics

In Bengal’s political history, Adhikari is only the second person to have defeated Mamata Banerjee in any election (by 1,956 votes in Nandigram Assembly constituency in 2021, prompting Didi to subsequently contest and win from Bhawanipore in a byelection).

That one victory catapulted Adhikari’s stature in Bengal politics. He had led the BJP's campaign in the 2021 Assembly polls too, but Mamata's party had then trounced the BJP emphatically.

This Lok Sabha polls is a litmus test for Adhikari. The final outcome in Bengal will decide how much longer the BJP top brass will keep its faith in him. So far, the senior leadership stands firmly with Adhikari.

“The more you target Suvendu Adhikari, the bigger he will become as a leader with the BJP,” Amit Shah had said at a public meeting in East Midnapore’s Bhupatinagar, referring to a police raid at a guest house in Kolaghat that the leader of Opposition often uses.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, with Adhikari still a minister in the Mamata Banerjee government, the BJP won five of the eight seats where voting is being help on Saturday. The BJP could not breach Contai and Tamluk, the two seats in East Midnapore, the home turf of the Adhikaris, held by patriarch Sisir (Suvendu's father) and Dibyendu (Suvendu's brother).

The challenge before Adhikari is to increase the tally. Win, if not all eight, at least a couple more. To those close to him, Adhikari has expressed confidence of adding Contai and Tamluk to the existing tally of five.

“He believes if the Trinamul’s lead in Keshpur can be reduced, then there is a chance in Ghatal as well,” said a BJP leader close to Adhikari.

The sitting MP in Ghatal is the Trinamul’s actor-nominee Dev. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Dev had polled 1,44,990 votes from Keshpur, while the BJP’s Bharati Ghosh bagged 52, 916 votes. Trinamul had maintained the lead in the 2021 Assembly polls as well, along with five other Assemblies.

On most ocassions, Adhikari has consciously stayed away from the high profile campaigns attended by the likes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah. On May 22, he shared the dais with Shah, but did not address the rally. His campaign has been focussed on Mamata and Abhishek, and the alleged corruption among the Trinamul.

Mamata, who refers to Adhikari as “gaddar (traitor)", has repeatedly blamed the Adhikaris for the firing on March 14 in 2007 in Nandigram that left 14 villagers dead. She also alleged her loss in the Nandigram election of 2021 was engineered by the Adhikaris and she would avenge it.

In the run up to the polls in the sixth phase, a woman BJP supporter was killed in Nandigram’s Sonachura, indicating that voting would be anything but peaceful. Till this phase, violence-prone Bengal has managed to avoid murders, though blood has been indeed been spilled in some instances.

The Trinamul too is equally confident of taking on the Adhikaris and the BJP in East Midnapore and the other districts. “The BJP has tried several tactics to create disturbances in the first five phases. They will try the same here too, but it is not going to work,” Abhishek Banerjee had said on Wednesday in Nandigram.

The Election Commission has identified 2,678 booths out of the total 15,619 in the sixth phase as sensitive. The highest number of sensitive booths 501 out of 1,895 are in Contai, where Adhikari’s brother Soumendu is the BJP candidate.

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