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70% voting in first phase of West Bengal Assembly elections

Women voters showing voter IDs and indelible ink marks on their fingers after casting their votes during the first phase of West Bengal assembly polls in Siliguri on April 18, 2011. UNI PHOTO
Women voters showing voter IDs and indelible ink marks on their fingers after casting their votes during the first phase of West Bengal assembly polls in Siliguri on April 18, 2011. UNI PHOTO

About 70 per cent of the 97,62,159 voters exercised their franchise in 54 constituencies where polling was held today in the first of six phases of voting in the elections to the 294-member West Bengal Legislative Assembly.

As many as 364 candidates were in the fray in the 54 constituences spread across six North Bengal districts.

The polling, held from 0700 hours to 1700 hours, passed off peacefully with no major untoward incidents reported from anywhere.

Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Kumar Gupta told mediapersons in Kolkata that the percentage of voting would go up slightly in view of the serpentine queues in front of several booths at 1700 hours.

According to the preliminary estimates, South Dinajpore and Cooch Behar districts recorded 74.3 per cent voting each while it was 70 per cent in Darjeeling, 68.42 per cent in Malda and 67.03 per cent each in Jalpaiguri and North Dinajpore.

Voters in six booths in Malda district and at one in South Dinajpore boycotted the polling today.

Mr Gupta said the Election Commission had removed the presiding officers of Gangarampore and Harishchandrapore in Malda.

Security personnel keeping vigil at a check post during the first phase of West Bengal assembly polls in Siliguri on April 18, 2011. UNI PHOTO
Security personnel keeping vigil at a check post during the first phase of West Bengal assembly polls in Siliguri on April 18, 2011. UNI PHOTO

The second phase of polling will be held on April 23, the third on April 27, the fourth on May 3, the fifth on May 7 and the sixth and last phase on May 10.

Counting of votes will be taken up in West Bengal, as well as in Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry, where polling has already been completed, on May 13. All results are expected by that evening.

Polling was held today at 8822 booths in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, Malda, North Dinajpur and South Dinajpur districts.

The ruling Left Front, which has been holding fort for 34 years, and the Trinamool Congress (TMC)-Congress combine are the main players in the election.

The electoral fate of ten state Ministers - Ashok Bhattacharjee(Siliguri), Kshiti Goswami (Alipurduar), Sailen Sarkar(Ratua), Kiranmoy Nanda(Raiganj), Ananta Roy(Mathabhanga), Paresh Adhikary(Mekhliganj), Biswanath Choudhury(Balurghat), Narayan Biswas(Harirampur), Srikumar Mukherjee(Itahar) and Anarul Haq (Chopra)- was decided today.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had put up its candidates in all the 54 constituencies.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), which has been spearheading a movement for a seperate Gorkhaland in Darjeeling, was a major factor in today's polling.

Voters queue up to cast their votes during the first phase of West Bengal assembly polls at Gulma in Siliguri on April 18, 2011. UNI PHOTO
Voters queue up to cast their votes during the first phase of West Bengal assembly polls at Gulma in Siliguri on April 18, 2011. UNI PHOTO

The Adivasi Vikash Parishad, a new organisation set up to oppose the demand for Gorkhaland, had also put up candidates for several seats.

Among the Left Front partners, the CPI(M) had candidates in 32 seats, followed by the Forward Bloc (10), RSP (9), CPI (2) and Samajwadi Party (1).

The Congress had put up candidates in 27 of the seats involved in today's polling and the TMC in 26, leaving one to the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

About 500 companies of para-military forces, in addition to the state police, had been deployed to ensure free and fair elections. As many as 39 Central observers had been pressed into service.

(With inputs from United News of India)

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