WB Polls phase 2: 79.70 per cent voter turnout recorded amidst violence in Birbhum and Malda
Kolkata: In a heavy turnout amid reports of sporadic violence, over 79.70 per cent of the electorate cast their votes in 56 constituencies spread across seven districts in the second phase of the West Bengal assembly elections.
"At 5 p.m., the overall polling percentage was 79.70 percent," an Election Commission official said.
Long queues of voters were seen outside most polling booths despite the sweltering heat and humidity, as voting commenced at 7 a.m.
There are about 1.22 crore registered voters, and 383 candidates, including 33 women. Balloting took place at 13,645 polling stations.
Five of the constituencies are in Alipurduar district, seven in Jalpaiguri, nine in North Dinajpur, six each in Darjeeling and South Dinajpur and 12 in Malda districts.
The only south Bengal district going to the polls in this phase is Birbhum. Of its 11 constituencies, seven -- Dubrajpur, Suri, Nalhati, Rampurhat, Sainthia, Hansan and Murarai -- have been classified as affected by Left-wing extremism and polling in these areas ended two hours earlier than elsewhere at 4 p.m.
There were many people in queue when the scheduled time of polling ended in the other 45 constituencies at 6 p.m.
"Polling percentage at 5 p.m. in Alipurduar was 82.07, Jalpaiguri recorded 77.69, Darjeeling 74.00, North Dinajpur 78.90, South Dinajpur 82.72, Malda 79.60 and Birbhum 82.89," said the official.
He said reserve polling officer Gopi Chakraborti -- on duty in Alipurduar district -- died after a stroke.
There was an initial poll boycott in seven booths of Malda over developmental issues. "However, polling started after the sector officer persuaded the people to lift the boycott."
There were allegations of false voting in the presence of the presiding officer in a booth in Malda's English Bazar. Following a complaint lodged by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), the officer was removed.
At Dumrut in Birbhum's Bolpur constituency, three people were arrested following a clash between Trinamool Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party workers.
In the district's Rampurhat, a section of residents reportedly boycotted polls citing failure of the state government to provide basic electricity services.
In Nanoor, Trinamool activists allegedly assaulted a polling agent of the CPI-M.
The BJP's star candidate Locket Chatterjee, contesting from Mayureshwar, said the civic police were spotted with central forces inside a booth in the constituency.
A clash reportedly broke out between Trinamool and CPI-M workers outside a booth in Malda, in which two people were injured.
Meanwhile, despite the Election Commission's constant surveillance, the Trinamool's Birbhum chief and strongman Anubrata Mondal courted fresh controversy as he cast his vote after entering a booth sporting the party symbol on his kurta.
While the EC has sought a report about the incident, Mondal put the onus of his "inadvertent" act of displaying the party symbol in the booth on the presiding officer, but refused to say sorry.
Besides being issued notice by the EC for his controversial remarks against opposition leaders, Mondal is under constant surveillance till the end of the poll process with his movements being video-graphed in the presence of central security forces and a local magistrate.
As many as 2,909 polling stations were earmarked as vulnerable and special arrangements made for them by the poll panel, which also identified 3,827 people as trouble-mongers and over 16,000 as vulnerable voters in the 56 constituencies.
The EC has also show-caused Mondal's mentor and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for announcing at a poll rally that Asansol in Burdwan district would be upgraded into a new district.
Riled by the EC strictures, Banerjee has gone all guns blazing at the constitutional body, accusing it of acting at the behest of the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party and the CPI-M.
West Bengal is having a staggered six-phase election. Polling for the remaining phases will be held on April 21, 25, 30 and May 5.
(With inputs from agencies)