Two voters die, 64 percent turnout till 3 p.m. in Bengal (Fourth Lead)

April 27th, 2011 - 6:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Pranab Mukherjee Kolkata, April 27 (IANS) Two voters died outside polling booths as the third phase of assembly elections in West Bengal Wednesday saw 64 percent votes cast till 3 p.m. in 75 constituencies of three districts, officials said.

“In South 24 Parganas district, a woman died of sunstroke in Kultali while waiting in the queue to vote. Another woman died when she slipped and sustained a head injury after coming out of a polling booth in Canning West,” said District Magistrate N.S. Nigam.

A total of 14,419,669 people in Kolkata and the neighbouring districts of North and South 24-Parganas are eligible to elect their representatives from among 479 contestants.

“Till 3 p.m., about 64 percent of the electorate have voted,” said Additional Chief Electoral Officer N.K. Sahana.

South 24 Parganas had the highest turnout at 68.66 percent followed by North 24 Parganas at 64 percent. Kolkata saw around 54 percent turnout since polling began at 7 a.m.

Kolkata has 11 constituencies, North 24-Parganas has 33 and South 24-Parganas has 31.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and 11 of his ministers are in the fray in this phase of the polls.

The state’s ruling Left Front is facing the stiffest challenge of its 34-year rule from the determined Trinamool Congress-Congress combine.

In Kasba constituency, a clash broke out between the supporters of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Trinamool Congress in which four activists were injured and a vehicle was damaged.

“One person was arrested,” said Murli Dhar, additional police superintendent.

Joint Chief Electoral Officer Dibyendu Sarkar said a presiding officer in a polling station in central Kolkata’s Maniktala constituency was replaced after allegations of false voting.

In some booths, there was delay due to the malfunctioning of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

“At least 45 EVMs have been replaced, but so far there are no reports of poll process being disturbed,” Sarkar said.

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and former Indian cricket skipper Sourav Ganguly cast their ballots in the city.

Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee was among the early birds. The areas being covered in the third phase include the cosmopolitan industrial belt of the city and its suburbs and the populated areas of the world’s largest mangrove forest Sundarbans.

Meanwhile, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee accused Chief Minister Bhattacharjee of trying to manipulate polls in Jadavpore.

“It is a matter of shame and I am ashamed to say that state Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has tried to manipulate polling in a few of the areas of his constituency. He is using the state police in the area by using his powers. We will inform the Election Commission about it,” Banerjee told a news channel.

Main opposition Trinamool has high stakes in this round, as the areas going to polls are regarded as its citadel going by the last poll results.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Trinamool and its ally Socialist Unity Centre of India-Communist nominees were ahead in 66 of the 75 assembly segments.

Other than Bhattacharjee, 11 state ministers whose fate will be decided Wednesday include Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta, Housing Minister Gautam Deb and Transport Minister Ranjit Kundu.

Leader of Opposition Partha Chatterjee, Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee, and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) secretary general Amit Mitra are also in the fray.

A number of celebrities nominated by the Trinamool, including film stars Debashree Roy, Chiranjeet (Dipak) Chakroborty and theatre personality Bratya Basu are also trying their luck in the third phase.

Ruling Left Front major CPI-M is contesting in 61 constituencies, Forward Bloc (7), Communist Party of India (3), Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) (3) and the Trinamool (70).

The Bharatiya Janata Party has put up candidates in all the 75 constituencies, and the Bahujan Samaj Party in 51.

Over 600 companies of security forces have been deployed and more than 3,000 of over 17,000 polling stations have been identified as super sensitive. Around 1.4 lakh people have been identified as vulnerable to threats from miscreants.

Polls to the 294-member assembly, which started April 18, will end May 10.

The first and second phase of elections saw around 85 percent turnout. The votes will be counted May 13.

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