Kolkata, May 5 (IANS) Over 23 percent of the electorate cast their votes in the first two hours as polling began in 25 constituencies covering the Cooch Behar and East Midnapore districts in the sixth and final phase of the West Bengal assembly elections on Thursday.
“Poll percentage till 9.00 a.m. was 23.46 percent overall. In Cooch Behar, it was 21.59 percent and in East Midnapore it was 24.45 percent,” an Election Commission official said.
Nine of the constituencies are in Cooch Behar district, and 16 in East Midnapore.
In the 51 erstwhile enclaves in Cooch Behar, over 9,000 enthusiastic voters, including three centenarians, exercised their voting rights for the first time since independence.
It is a historic day for these first tine voters, as it marks another giant leap in their absorption into India after nearly seven decades of stateless existence.
Battling disabilities, thousands turned up in East Midnapore’s over 4,000 disabled voter-friendly booths, to cast their ballots aided by the Election Commission’s special initiatives.
In East Midnapore’s Moyna assembly seat, the CPI-M alleged its polling agent’s house was broken into and vandalised by Trinamool Congress goons. Five Trinamool workers were reportedly detained in the assembly seat for intimidating voters.
In Nandigram, the Opposition accused the Trinamool of intimidating and threatening their agents who, they claimed, could not operate.
Over 58 lakh (58,04,019) voters across 6,774 polling stations, including nine auxiliary booths, are eligible to decide the fate of 170 candidates — 18 of them female in this phase.
The Election Commission is using 7,790 electronic voting machines (EVM) and 621 voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT).
In East Midnapore, the main focus is on Nandigram, where a peasants agitation in 2006-07 against the erstwhile Left Front government’s bid to acquire farmland for a chemical hub and special economic zone had triggered police firing that resulted in 14 deaths.
The peasants protest played a pivotal role in the ouster of the Left Front after 34 years in office.
In 2011, the Trinamool Congress, then in alliance with the Congress, won 20 of the seats that go to the hustings in this phase.
The Congress got one, while Left Front partner All India Forward Bloc triumphed in four seats.
This time, the Left Front and the Congress have teamed up challenging the Trinamool.
While the Left Front is in fray in 18 seats, the Congress is contesting from four constituencies, with the alliance extending support to three independent candidates.
The Trinamool and the BJP are fighting all the seats.
The star candidates include Trinamool’s heavyweight leader and MP Suvendu Adhikari (Nandigram), who was purportedly seen in the Narada News sting operation video taking wads of currency notes in return for favours to a fictitious company.
Among other major candidates are state minister Sudarshan Ghosh Dastidar (Mahisadal), Udayan Guha (Dinhata) — both from Trinamool and Paresh Chandra Adhikary (Mekhliganj) of the All India Forward Bloc (AIFB).
The votes will be counted on May 19.