Peaceful, steady polling in West Bengal (Lead)

May 7th, 2009 - 12:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, May 7 (IANS) An estimated 13 percent voters exercised their franchise in the first two hours of polling across 17 Lok Sabha constituencies in the second phase of the West Bengal elections Thursday. Polling was by and large peaceful though there were sporadic incidents and complaints and counter-complaints from contesting parties.
Long queues were seen outside polling booths as voters, young and old, began trickling into polling stations long before they opened at 7 a.m. to beat the oppressive heat that is bound to make things difficult for the electors as the day progresses.

“…about 13 percent votes polled on an average in 17 parliamentary constituencies across the state,” an official manning the Election Commission control room here told IANS.

“We’ve not received any reports of technical snags in electronic voting machines (EVM) or any other type of problems in polling stations.”

“Polling is going on in a very peaceful manner. No violent incident has been reported so far,” added state Inspector General (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia.

In Murshidabad district’s Jangipur constituency, from where Congress heavyweight and Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee is seeking re-election, there was a complaint that the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) had captured 12-14 booths.

“Our polling agents have been driven out by the CPI-M goons who have completely captured these booths. We have lodged a complaint with the Election Commission,” Mukherjee’s aide Prodyut Guha told IANS over phone from Jangipur.

In the high-profile region of Nandigram, which had made international headlines for violence triggered by anti-industrialisation protests, the CPI-M in turn alleged that a “few booths” were captured by activists of the opposition Trinamool Congress. Nandigram comes under the Tamluk parliamentary constituency of East Midnapore district.

“Trinamool activists have terrorised our men asking them not to enter polling stations as CPI-M booth agent,” local CPI-M leader Ashok Guria said, adding that Trinamool Congress supporters had also threatened voters in Nandigram against supporting Left Front-nominated candidates.

Voting was peaceful in the Hooghly district pocket of Singur, where sustained protests by Trinamool Congress had led to Tata Motors shifting its prestigious Nano car plant to Gujarat’s Sanand. Singur is part of the Hooghly Lok Sabha seat.

Besides, Trinamool Congress’ celebrity candidate, actor Tapas Pal, was warned by the district administration not to influence the electorate in his constituency Krishnanagar in Nadia district.

Pal has been fielded against CPI-M MP Jyotirmoyee Sikdar, a double gold medal winning athlete in the 1998 Busan Asian Games, and BJP nominee and former union minister Satya Brata Mukherjee.

In the 2004 election, the CPI-M had won 14 of the 17 seats in the state.

Of West Bengal’s 42 seats, 14 went to the polls April 30, while 11 will vote in the last round May 13. The votes will be counted May 16.

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