Over 85 percent turnout in Bengal’s peaceful phase two polling (Intro Roundup)

April 23rd, 2011 - 11:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Pranab Mukherjee Kolkata, April 23 (IANS) High on enthusiasm, West Bengal recorded above 85 percent turnout as the second phase of balloting for the high-voltage state assembly polls passed off peacefully in 50 constituencies across three districts Saturday.

However, tragedy struck as a police assistant sub-inspector died due to sun stroke.

Women outnumbered men in many booths that saw long queues since balloting opened at 7 a.m.

Over 93 lakh people at 11,531 polling stations spread over Murshidabad, Nadia and Birbhum districts were eligible to elect their representatives from among 293 candidates.

Murshidabad has 22 seats, Nadia 17 and Birbhum 11.

“More than 85 percent voters have exercised their rights so far. But the number will go up as in some of the polling booths people are still standing in queue,” said sources in the state Chief electoral Officer’s office at 7.30 p.m.

In Murshidabad, the polling percentage was 84.86, while Nadia and Birbhum recorded 85.55 and 85.48 respectively.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Murshidabad registered 84.71 percent polling, Nadia 86.45 percent and Birbhum 82.72.

After the record 84.11 percent turnout in the April 18 first phase of elections in 54 constituencies in six northern districts, the poll juggernaut has now rolled on to South Bengal, which holds the key to government formation as over 80 percent of the seats are located in this region.

While overall voting proceeded smoothly, there were a few minor untoward incidents.

In Beldanga of Murshdiabad district, assistant sub-inspector Dipak Barui collapsed in the oppressive heat and humidity and died, an official said.

Police took 35 people into custody, of which 32 were preventive arrests, said state Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta.

Three others were arrested for violence and electoral malpractices.

A polling agent of a Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) candidate in Murshidabad was taken into custody after postal ballots were found in his possession, said an election officer.

Workers of the CPI-M and the Congress clashed outside a polling station at Beldanga of Murshidabad district, leading to two arrests.

Two presiding officers in Ranaghat South constituency in Nadia district were replaced for influencing voters inside the polling station while another officer in Jalangi in Murshidabad was substituted after he fell ill.

People boycotted voting in 17 polling stations over local issues - 12 in Rejinagar of Murshidabad and five booths in Kaliganj of Nadia.

In some polling stations voting was delayed for a few minutes due to the malfunctioning of electronic voting machines (EVM).

At least 91 EVMs have been replaced so far in the three districts, said joint Chief Electoral Officer Dibyendu Sarkar.

The CPI-M-led ruling Left Front faces its biggest ever challenge in its 34 years of rule from the Trinamool Congress-Congress combine.

Prominent candidates in the second phase include CPI-M leader and state minister Anisur Rehman, union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s son Avijit Mukherjee who is contesting on a Congress ticket, and former high court judge and Trinamool Congress nominee Nure Alam Chowdhury.

Rukbanur Rahman, brother of computer graphics teacher Rizwanur Rahman who was killed a month after he married the daughter of Kolkata-based industrialist Ashok Todi, and Baul (folk) singer Parikkhit Bala are also in the race as Trinamool Congress nominees.

The CPI-M is contesting 31 seats, while its Left Front partners Revolutionary Socialist Party, Forward Bloc and Communist Party of India are contesting in nine, five and one seat respectively, leaving three seats to other minor parties.

The Trinamool is in the race in 29 and the Congress in 21 constituencies.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is contesting all the 50 seats.

The CPI-M and the Congress expressed satisfaction with the conduct of polls.

“We are satisfied with the polling,” said CPI-M state secretariat member Rabin Deb.

Congress spokesman Om Prakash Mishra echoed Deb.

A total of 488 companies of central police forces were deployed across the three districts, Sarkar said.

The last four phases of the state’s assembly polls will be held April 27 (75 constituencies), May 3 (63), May 7 (38) and May 10 (14).

The votes for the 294 seats will be counted May 13.

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