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Lok Sabha elections 2019: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee skips, Mamata votes

Weather kept ailing former chief minister away

By Our Special Correspondent in Calcutta

  • Published 20.05.19, 2:09 AM
  • Updated 20.05.19, 2:09 AM
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee flashes a victory sign after she cast her vote at Mitra Institution on Harish Mukherjee Road.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee flashes a victory sign after she cast her vote at Mitra Institution on Harish Mukherjee Road. Picture by Pradip Sanyal

Poor health forced former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to stay away from the polling booth for the first time in recent memory.

The wait was long at another south Calcutta polling address — Mitra Institution on Harish Mukherjee Road — before chief minister Mamata Banerjee turned up in the late afternoon to cast her vote.

Bhattacharjee’s absence caught the attention of many as he had told some of his aides earlier this week that he would definitely exercise his democratic right.

The former chief minister was last seen in public at a Left rally at Brigade on February 3.

The hot and humid conditions prevented Bhattacharjee from stepping out on Sunday.

“He was not well this morning and that’s why he couldn’t cast his vote,” said a source in the CPM on Sunday evening. He couldn’t recall an earlier instance when Bhattacharjee, a patient of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, had skipped voting.

The former chief minister’s wife Meera and daughter Suchetona, however, cast their votes at Patha Bhavan primary section.

A media contingent that had been waiting in front of the polling station since morning finally packed up around 5pm, disappointed.

Those posted at Mitra Institution got a glimpse of the chief minister at 4.22pm.

Mamata stepped out of a hatchback and walked briskly along the pavement on Harish Mukherjee Road before vanishing inside Mitra Institution, oblivious to the cries of “Didi, Didi”. She re-emerged in seven minutes and the cameras went click, click.

This time Mamata walked up to the television booms amid requests of “Didi kichhu bolun (Didi, please say something).”

“The manner in which the BJP supporters and the central forces tortured, I have never seen anything like this. This is unprecedented…. Though it is not a day to campaign, I have to say this,” said Mamata.

Unlike the previous Lok Sabha polls, Mamata didn’t go to the party office on the EM Bypass after casting her vote. Instead, she went straight to her 30B Harish Chatterjee Street home.

“The weather was so hot and humid, but it became cooler and also started drizzling around the time Didi came to vote… This is a good omen,” said a close aide of Mamata.