Polling brisk and peaceful in West Bengal (Fourth Lead)

April 18th, 2011 - 6:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Kolkata/Siliguri, April 18 (IANS) Polling was brisk and peaceful in West Bengal Monday with around 61 percent ballot cast till afternoon in the first phase of the assembly elections, officials said.

However, there was a vote boycott in six polling booths of Malda district and two other booths in South Dinajpur district on local issues like lack of development, said Joint Chief Electoral Officer Dibyendu Sarkar.

A presiding officer of a booth in South Dinajpur’s Harirampur constituency was removed for violating the poll code, he said.

No untoward incidents were reported. An average of around 60.6 percent polling was recorded, said Sarkar.

According to sources in the CEO’s office, Jalpaiguri recorded 59 percent polling, Malda 59.3, Cooch Behar 56.3, South Dinajpur 58 percent till 3 p.m. Polling percentage in Darjeeling was 64 percent and North Dinajpur was around 58.6 percent.

Polling began at 7 a.m. In some places, people cast their vote in candlelight due to power cuts, and in a few polling booths electronic voting machines (EVMs) malfunctioned but were set right soon. Polling proceeded smoothly.

From the hill station of Darjeeling to Malda, famed for its mouthwatering mangoes, there was great enthusiasm among people who lined up attired in their best to choose their representatives from among 364 candidates.

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

The fate of 11 ministers of the Left Front is being decided during Monday’s poll by over 97 lakh voters in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Malda districts.

“There were also complaints of electronic voting machines malfunctioning in two-three booths of some districts. The machines were replaced soon and the poll process is going smoothly. There were no reports of any violence or disturbances,” said Sarkar.

“Paramilitary troopers are posted in all 12,131 polling booths, of which 1,800 have been identified as critical. The election officials in the CEO’s office are directly monitoring the polling process in 150 out of 1,800 critical booths,” said Sarkar.

Authorities have deployed 548 companies of central paramilitary forces in the districts to face any eventuality, a police officer said.

The CPI-M is contesting 32 seats, the Communist Party of India (CPI) two, Forward Bloc 10, Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) nine, Socialist Party one, the Trinamool Congress 26, the Congress 27, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) one, and the Bharatiya Janata Party 49.

Also in the fray are the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) in three constituencies, Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) in three, and the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League in three.

Of the 54 constituencies, 16 are reserved for the Scheduled Castes and eight for the Scheduled Tribes.

Polling for West Bengal’s 294 seats will be held in six phases. The next phases are April 23 (50 constituencies), April 27 (75), May 3 (63), May 7 (38) and May 10 (14). The votes will be counted May 13.

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