Over 80 per cent of the voters on Monday cast their votes in 54 constituencies in six districts in North Bengal in the first phase of the six-phased Assembly elections in West Bengal. More importantly, the elections were completely peaceful with no incident of violence, clash and rioting. No person was killed or injured and only 10 persons were taken into preventive custody. The voting took place under an unprecedented security arrangement with the deployment of the Central paramilitary forces in all polling booths.
State chief electoral officer Sunil Gupta said, “Till 6 pm, 74.27 per cent of 97,42,128 voters in North Bengal exercised their franchise. In South Dinajpur, the voters’ turnout is highest with 78.17 per cent and in Darjeeling, 71 per cent of the voters have exercised their franchise which is lowest among the six districts. However, the total voters’ turnout will increase further as polling is being continued in many polling stations even after 5 pm as voters are still waiting in long queue.”
In the 2006 Assembly elections, 82.77 per cent voters had exercised their franchise in North Bengal, while in 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the turnout was recorded at 81.84 per cent in those six districts, namely Coochbehar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Malda.
Left Front chairman Biman Bose said, “The elections were free, fair and peaceful. I am happy with the turnout. We are confident of wining in the majority of the constituencies in North Bengal.”
The Trinamul Congress also congratulated people for such a high turnout. “If this trend of the voters’ turnout continues, we will reduce the Left Front to 30 seats in the state,” party secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said.
Interestingly, till 6 pm, the Election Commission had not received any request from any political party for repolling in any booth. “There were 12,131 polling stations in 8,912 polling premises. We have deployed 57,048 polling officials, including the reserved officials to conduct polling in those booths. We have replaced 92 electronic voting machines (EVMs) due to malfunctioning but the polling process has not been affected in those booths,” Mr Gupta informed.
For the first time in any election in the state, live webcasting arrangement was made from 174 polling stations. The Commission also installed digital cameras and video cameras in 1,099 and 270 polling booths respectively. In addition, 1,478 micro-observers were deployed by the Commission at booth-level. Asian Age