West Bengal votes amid clashes, malfunctioning EVMs (Lead)

May 13th, 2009 - 1:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, May 13 (IANS) Amid clashes that killed one man and delayed polling in some areas because of malfunctioning electronic voting machines (EVMs), the final phase of parliamentary elections in West Bengal Wednesday got off to a brisk start with a turnout of 19-20 percent by 10 a.m.
“On an average, 19-20 percent polling was reported till 10 a.m. in the 11 constituencies,” an official at the Election Commission control room here told IANS.

Polling began at 7 a.m. and paramilitary personnel stood guard at all voting stations in the metropolis, where every booth has been declared sensitive. There were long queues before most of the polling stations, with a large number of first time voters exercising their right of franchise with enthusiasm.

Among the early voters was Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MP Brinda Karat in the New Alipore area of Kolkata South constituency.

On Tuesday night, Khejar Ali, claimed to be a Trinamool Congress activist, was killed in Rajarhat on the outskirts of the city during a violent clash with the ruling rival CPI-M during which bombs were flung, said state Inspector General of Police (law and order) Raj Kanojia.

However, Wednesday was most mostly peaceful except for Jadavpur where another clash took place between the two parties following the CPI-M’s allegations that its camp office was damaged by opposition Trinamool Congress supporters, police said.

Polling could not begin in 101 booths of Mandirbazar Assembly segment under Mathurapur Lok Sabha seat in South 24 Parganas district as the EVM machines, wet due to Tuesday’s rains, did not function.

“We have recommended that polling be held in these booths Thursday. The final decision will be taken by the Election Commission officials in Delhi,” state’s joint electoral officer Nikhil Kumar Sahana told IANS.

According to sources, some incidents of EVMs malfunctioning were also reported at No.69 polling booth in Jainagar constituency of South 24 Parganas. This apart, some technical snags were also reported in a few polling stations of Kumartuli area of Kolkata North constituency.

Trinamool Congress nominee from Kolkata North seat Sudip Bandopadhyay got involved in an altercation with CPI-M activists in a booth, but police intervened to defuse the situation.

After the first two rounds of polling in the state April 30 and May 7, the third and final phase covers Kolkata and its two adjoining districts of South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas.

Of West Bengal’s 42 seats, 11 went to the polls April 30 and 17 voted May 7.

In the third phase, the fate of 100 candidates, including Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and eight other women, is being decided by 13.8 million electors across 17,136 polling booths.

Eyeing a sixth straight win, Banerjee is in the fray from the Kolkata South constituency against old foe Rabin Deb of the CPI-M.

In the 2004 election, Left Front major CPI-M had won 10 of the 11 seats, with Banerjee retaining Kolkata South.

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