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Dhupguri Assembly bypoll largely peaceful, despite pitched campaign battle in last few weeks between BJP and Trinamul Congress

Voter turnout was 80 per cent till 6.30pm, in 2021 Assembly polls in Dhupguri won by BJP, voter turnout was 87.16 per cent

Our Correspondent Jalpaiguri Published 06.09.23, 05:22 AM
Voters queue up at a booth in Dhupguri during the Assembly bypoll on Tuesday

Voters queue up at a booth in Dhupguri during the Assembly bypoll on Tuesday Picture by Biplab Basak

The Dhupguri Assembly bypoll on Tuesday was largely peaceful, despite a pitched campaign battle in the last few weeks between the BJP and Trinamul.

Voter turnout was 80 per cent till 6.30pm. In the 2021 Assembly polls in Dhupguri won by the BJP, voter turnout was 87.16 per cent.

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The bypolls were held under tight central paramilitary and state police security cover in 260 booths.

Necessitated by the demise of BJP MLA Bishnupada Roy, Jalpaiguri's Dhupguri bypoll comes a few months before the Lok Sabha elections as a test for both Trinamul and the BJP. While Trinamul is hoping to replicate its Dinhata success in Dhupguri — it lost Cooch Behar's Dinhata to the BJP in 2021 but later won it with a huge majority in a bypoll — the saffron camp is desperate to retain the seat as it has lost several MLA since 2021 because of defections and byelection losses.

The BJP has lost all seven bypolls held in Bengal since 2021.

The Telegraph brings some of the highlights of Tuesday's bypoll.

Argument

Tapasi Roy, the BJP candidate, got into an argument with police officers.

Around 10am, when Roy reached booths 15/182 and 15/183 in ward 7 of Dhupguri town and spotted a policeman standing with central force personnel to control the crowd, she asked him to leave.

Wangden Bhutia, the additional superintendent of police (rural) reached the spot. He told Tapasi that security arrangements were according to election commission guidelines.

“There is a clear directive that to control the voters, policemen can be posted in front of the booths. The BJP candidate seemed ignorant of it and started shouting which led to tension. We told her she was free to complain to the observer or presiding officer. We have filed a general diary of the incident,” said Bhutia.

Tapasi also said she would file a complaint.

“As I found a policeman close to the booth, I asked them to move away. The policeman, instead of moving away, threatened me...,” she said.

Migrant voters

Most of Dhupguri's migrant workers from nearby areas such as Siliguri, Sikkim, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Bhutan came to vote, but many from far-off Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Delhi couldn't.

“My son came in July for rural polls. This time, he couldn't afford it," said Nasifa Bibi, whose son Md Sirazuddin works in a motor training school in Bangalore.

Amina Khatun of Paschim Magurmari village, on the other hand, came to vote with her son who works in nearby Phuentsholing of Bhutan. “He came this morning and will leave tomorrow (Wednesday),” said Khatun.

In Jalpaiguri, 2.5 lakh job cards of 100 days' work were cancelled as the cards were not tagged with their Aadhaar cards, including 45,000 of Banarhat block and 20,000 of Dhupguri block. "Out of these people around 17,000 migrated to other states. Also, work under the MGNREGS stopped when the Centre froze funds to Bengal, leading to more migration. Very few migrants from far-flung states came to vote,” said a source in the administration.

A political observer said migrant workers stay away from bypolls.

Early polling

In a number of booths, which are on the fringes of forests like Moraghat and Khuttimari, around 75 per cent of voters cast their franchise by noon.

“This is because wild animals, especially elephants, come out near sundown. Voters did not want to encounter any animal while returning home,” said a forest official.

Along with the central forces and police, teams of the forest department also patrolled these areas to prevent animals from straying near the booths.

Cops at BJP office

A police team led by Sujoy Tunga, the inspector-in-charge of Dhupguri police station, reached BJP poll office in the afternoon on learning that some BJP leaders, who weren't voters of this Assembly seat, were at the office set up by the party for the bypoll in a property owned by a supporter.

The police found Bapi Goswami, the district BJP chief and voter of Jalpaiguri Assembly seat, and Dipak Barman, the MLA of Falakata in Alipurduar district, in the office.

The leaders claimed they were nominated as in-charge and co-in-charge for the bypoll by their party. The police, however, asked them to leave.

EVM snag

EVM snags were reported in three booths.

In booths 15/110 and 15/112, the EVMs stopped working during mock polling. Polling started at 8am instead of at 7am. In booth 15/183, because of a snag, polling started at 8.35am.

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