Polling picks speed in first phase of Bengal polls (Third Lead)

Kolkata, April 4 (IANS) A 45 percent turnout was recorded in the first four hours of polling on Monday in 18 constituencies in the first phase of the West Bengal assembly elections.

There will be seven days of polling for 294 assembly seats. The last day of polling is scheduled to be May 5.

Polling booths opened amid tight security at 7 a.m. in the 18 constituencies: nine in Purulia district, three in Bankura district and six in West Midnapore district.

For the first phase of elections, there are 40,09,171 registered voters and 133 candidates.

“An average of 45.15 percent turnout was recorded till 11 a.m. There are no reports of violence,” said an election commission official.

“Around 47.53 percent polling was reported in West Midnapore, 43.43 percent in Bankura and 45.02 percent in Purulia,” he said.

The commission received about 70 complaints, mostly about malfunctioning of electronic voting machines (EVMs), while a presiding officer in a booth in Purulia was changed following the allegation of trying to influence voters.

Among major candidates in the fray are state minister Sukumar Hansda of the Trinamool from Jhargram and CPI-M’s Pulin Bihari Baske contesting from Gopiballavpur.

The Congress and the Left Front accused Trinamool Congress activists of attempting to influence and intimidate voters in several booths in Purulia, a charge denied by the ruling party.

The Trinamool, the Congress-Left Front combine and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), all are in the fray for the 18 constituencies.

A multi-layered security ring has been put in place around the constituencies.

At least 10 personnel of a central paramilitary force have been deployed to secure each polling station in 13 Left Wing Extremism-(LWE)-affected constituencies where polling will end two hours earlier, at 4.00 p.m, than in other areas.

In other five constituencies – Purulia, Manbazar, Kashipur, Para and Raghunathpur (all in Purulia district) – voting will continue up to 6 p.m.

Besides helicopters carrying out sorties, an air-ambulance and quick response teams are on standby.

There are 4,945 polling stations out of which 1,962 have been classified as critical where special security measures have been made.

Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) have been made available in 562 polling stations.

Under VVPAT, a printer-like apparatus is linked to the EVM. When a vote is cast, a receipt is generated showing the serial number, name and symbol of the candidate. It confirms the vote and the voter can verify the details.

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