Around 42 percent turnout in Bengal election

Kolkata, April 25 (IANS) Some 42 percent of 1.08 crore electorate voted in the first four hours in phase four of the West Bengal assembly election on Monday in 49 constituencies of Howrah and North 24 Parganas bordering Kolkata.

A total of 42.01 percent turnout was recorded till 11 a.m., with 42.37 percent in North 24 Parganas and 41.25 percent in Howrah, said an Election Commission official. The polling began at 7 a.m. and will end at 6 p.m.

While the poll panel said the polls were peaceful, the BJP and the Congress alleged rigging in some booths.

BJP’s Roopa Ganguly, contesting from Howrah North, alleged bogus voting in one of the booths and faced angry protests from alleged Trinamool Congress activists.

Her Trinamool rival, retired international cricketer Laxmi Ratan Shukla, denied the charges. Shukla accused Ganguly of “influencing” voters.

The poll panel has sought a report from Howrah district officials on the actress-turned-politician’s movements.

CPI-M leader Tanmoy Bhattacharya (North Dum Dum) alleged that Trinamool workers and a group of “outsiders” pelted a brick on his car’s windscreen when he went to meet a voter allegedly beaten up by Trinamool supporters. He displayed his injured right forearm and shattered glass to buttress claims.

Independent candidate Pratima Dutta (wife of murdered green activist Tapan Dutta), supported by the Left-Congress alliance, alleged that polling agents in several booths were not allowed to enter in Domjur in Howrah.

A bomb attack was reported from a booth in Belgharia’s Jatin Das Nagar.

North 24 Parganas, a part of which falls under the world’s largest mangrove forests – the Sundarbans – has 33 constituencies. The remaining 16 are in Howrah.

Over 1.08 crore voters across 12,481 polling stations, including 27 auxiliary booths, are eligible to decide the fate of 345 candidates – 40 of them female.

The Election Commission has used 14,353 electronic voting machines (EVM) and 680 Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).

A total of 672 companies of central forces and 23,000 state police personnel have been deployed to ensure free and fair polls in the two districts, considered volatile in view of their history of political clashes and poll-related disturbances in the past.

In the Sundarbans region, equipped with ham radio operations to solar lights, officials have gone the extra mile to ensure the electorate gets a chance to exercise their voting rights.

In the 2011 polls, the Trinamool – then an ally of the Congress – bagged 43 of the 49 seats. The Congress got two, the Communist Party of India-Marxist three and the Communist Party of India one.

The Trinamool and the Bharatiya Janata Party are in the fray in all the constituencies. The Left and the Congress are contesting 46 seats, leaving one seat to Janata Dal-United, besides backing two independents.

Khardah in North 24 Parganas district is again witnessing a battle between two economists – finance, industries and IT Minister Amit Mitra of the Trinamool and Asim Dasgupta of the CPI-M.

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