West Bengal first phase polls see 84% turnout

Siliguri, Apr 18 (Calcutta Tube / IBNS): The first leg of the six-phase Assembly elections in West Bengal ended on a high note on Monday as over 84 percent voters turned out to get their index fingers marked without any serious incidents in the closely-watched poll.
Media reports said South Dinajpur saw the highest turnout at 89 percent. Cooch Behar saw 85 percent percent polling, Jalpaiguri 86 percent, Darjeeling 78 percent, North Dinajpur 81 percent and Malda experienced 82 percent polling.
In what is being hailed as one of the most incident-free and smooth polls in the state, nearly 82 lakh of the 97.42 lakh electorates in six northern districts turned out to exercise their right.
There was polling in all the 12,131 polling stations in the six districts of West Bengal on Monday. 15000 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were put on use. 65 EVMs were replaced during mock polls while 27 EVMs were replaced during the regular polls.
Total number of poll workers deployed was 57,048, 1099 digital cameras and 270 video cameras were deployed.
No major law and order incidents were reported, no major arrests were made, said a government statement on Monday evening.
“There was no report of violence, interruption or natural calamity,” the statement said.
Though the overall polling was peaceful, the Left Front alleged that fake threat text and voice messages are beings sent in the name of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to the voters persuading them to vote in favour of the Left front.
Bhattacharjee’s election agent Bikash Bhattacharjee said although the Left Front is messaging people as a part of its campaign, the CM is not sending out any texts personally.
He accused the Opposition for maligning the CM’s image and said a complaint has been lodged at the Election Commission in this regard. He also said the Left Front will hold a press conference in the evening to clarify the matter.
Meanwhile, minor clashes between Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and voters were reported from Coochbehar’s Sitalbari area.
In a separate incident, Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) candidate from Coochbehar’s Natabari, Tamser Ali, alleged that Trinamool Congress (TMC) activists were obstructing voters to enter the booth in the area. He said he has complained to the Election Commission (EC) in this regard.
In Darjeeling, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung said: “We will continue with our movement for separate statehood (Gorkhaland) even after the assembly elections are over.”
“Trinamool Congress (TMC)-Congress will come to power. After seeing their up coming moves and perception on the issue, we will take the next step,” he said.
“Without condition we have supported the TMC-Congress alliance. Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) has to leave West Bengal now, they have exploited us for long. We have to remove CPI-M from here,” Gurung said.
CPI-M heavyweight in North Bengal Ashok Bhattacharya said: “In West Bengal, which includes Siliguri, people have seen all round development over the years since 77. People have seen this and this is a fact and reality.”
“Every election is different from each other. We consider each and every election as the first one and different from the previous one. In 2001, the situation was like this year, but we won by significant numbers of votes and will win this year also,” he said.
The West Bengal elections began at 7 am on Monday amid elaborate security arrangements in the northern districts of the state.
The balloting in the northern districts that continued till 5 pm marks the beginning of the polls that will end on May 10 for the state’s 294 assembly seats.
In the first phase the total number of voters is 9762159 spread over 12131 polling stations.
A total of 346 candidates are in the fray.
While the Left traditionally sweeps the northern region undergoing polls Monday, in this election the growing strength of opposition led by Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress is a big threat to the over 34-year-long Left rule now, considerably weakened by its industrialization and land acquisition policies.
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.

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