Kolkata, May 10 (Calcutta Tube / IBNS) Polling ended peacefully on Tuesday for the last leg of West Bengal six-phase Assembly elections in parts of three Maoist-dominated south-western districts under tight security arrangements.
West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura districts were up for grabs on Saturday as 97 candidates fought it out for 14 of the 294-seat West Bengal Assembly vying for the approval of over 26.57 lakh voters divided amongst over 3,500 polling stations.
While 38 candidates contested in 7 seats of West Midnapore, 37 candidates were in the fray for 4 seats of Purulia. 22 candidates contested in 3 seats of Bankura. The other seats of the district had seen polling in the fifth phase held on May 7.
As official polling time ended at 3 pm, the voting percentages were West Midnapore 86.13%, Purulia 76.17% and Bankura 84.18%. Average voting percentage in all three districts is 83.55%.
According to latest reports, large number of people are still queuing up before some of the booths across the three districts.
The polling was largely peaceful except some sporadic incidents reported from West Midnapore.
In West Midnapore’s Garbeta area, three Communist party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) activists were arrested for allegedly rigging in booth numbers 96A and 113.
In Baghbindha village of the district, only 18 out of 1100 voters cast their votes. The villagers reportedly fled from the area fearing Maoists attack. It was only after the Election Commission urged the villagers that 18 voters turned up to cast their votes.
In Salboni area of the district, a CPI-M activist was arrested for allegedly carrying a fake Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) in a particular booth.
Polling began at 7 am. Voters, who do not bring the Voter ID card (EPIC) or have not been issued the EPIC so far, were allowed to vote on production of any one of the photo documents as specified by the Election Commission.
Officials said full-proof security arrangements were made for polling regions, which include Maoist-prone areas.
Two helicopters were brought in by the Home and Defence ministries for aerial surveillance in the volatile area that included Jangalmahal where the writ of the rebels runs.
People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA), a body allegedly supported by the Maoists and blamed for the horrific Jnaneswari Express derailment, is strong in some of these areas.
Jailed PCPA leader Chhatradhar Mahato fought Tuesday’s polls as an Independent candidate from the Jharagram seat.
West Bengal is voting from Apr 18, in six phases, till May 10 for its 294-seat Assembly, in a watershed election with the ruling communists facing the most difficult poll battle of its tenure since 1977.
It is an uber-hyped election with the attention of global media focused on the state known the world’s longest ruling democratically elected communist government.
But the growing strength of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress party is a big threat to the over-three-decade-long Left rule now, considerably weakened by its industrialization policies that alienated the red from the farmers.
The land acquisition policies of the Left- which gave birth to movements in Singur and Nandigram and spread statewide- turned out to be its biggest setback for the Marxist as the opposition made deep inroads in the traditional rural bases of the communists.
The total number of voters in West Bengal taking into account all six phases is 5,60,91,973.
The counting of votes will take place on May 13.