West Bengal polls first phase sees nearly 81% turnout; over 78% votes cast in Assam
Braving the sweltering heat and oppressive humidity, nearly 81 percent of the 40 lakh voters cast their ballot in three Maoist-affected districts of West Bengal on Monday in the first phase of the assembly polls covering 18 constituencies.
Kolkat/Guwahati: Braving the sweltering heat and oppressive humidity, nearly 81 percent of the 40 lakh voters cast their ballot in three Maoist-affected districts of West Bengal on Monday in the first phase of the assembly polls covering 18 constituencies.
The constituencies that went to the hustings included 13 in areas identified as affected by the Left-Wing Extremism (LWE).
An Election Commission official said in Delhi that the polling was "by and large peaceful".
On the other hand, the voter turnout was nearly 80 percent in the peaceful first phase polling in Assam for 65 seats which will decide the fate of Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi of Congress and Sarbananda Sonowal, BJP's chief ministerial candidate.
"As per reports received till 5 pm, 78.45 per cent of voting had taken place. However, as a large number of voters were standing in queue at 5 pm, the final polling percentage is likely to by over 80 per cent," the election department said in a statement.
It said voters participated in an enthusiastic way and have registered a "record turnout".
"We were in a state of anxiety. You know the reason (fears of Maoist violence). But overall there was no major incident or complaint. There was no news of any bandh or poll boycott by the Maoists," Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta told reporters, as per PTI.
Till the last available count, the voter turnout was over 81 percent.
The Election Commission had received 537 complaints during the polling process, of which 531 were disposed of.
Polling will be held in another 31 seats in the second part of the first phase to be held on April 11.
People came out in large numbers since early morning to exercise their franchise.
Polling began at 7 AM amid tight security. Two choppers conducted regular sorties as part of aerial surveillance. The security ring that was thrown around the polling stations had quick response team, flying squads and sector forces.
The scheduled time of polling was reduced by two hours in six insurgency-hit constituencies of West Midnapore, four in Purulia and three in Bankura districts. The elections got over at 4 p.m. in these constituencies.
Voting was held in 4,945 polling stations out of which 1,962 were classified as 'critical' by the EC.
Voter Verifiable Audit Trails (VVAT) system was used in 562 polling stations.
A key candidate in this phase was Tribal Affairs Minister Sukumar Hansda from Jhargram.
Amidst tight security, people exercised their franchise in 12,191 polling stations of 65 constituencies spread across Upper Assam, two hill districts, northern bank of Brahmaputra Valley and Barak Valley.
The prominent Congress contestants in this phase are Tarun Gogoi, Assembly Speaker Pranab Gogoi, former Union Minister Paban Singh Ghatowar, Assam Ministers Gautam Roy, Sarat Barkotoky, Ajanta Neog, Khorsingh Engti, Siddeque Ahmed, Bismita Gogoi, Sumitra Patir and Girindra Malik among others.
Besides Sonowal, BJP's star candidates are Lok Sabha member Kamakhya Prasad Tasa, who has been pitched against Assam Chief Minister, MLAs Prashanta Phukan, Dilip Paul, Hiten Goswami, Padma Hazarika and Naba Doley along with former ULFA extremist Kushal Duwari.
Besides its working president Atul Bora, AGP's noted nominees are sitting MLAs Keshab Mahanta and Utpal Dutta along with their former minister Pradip Hazarika.
"Polling was good and it was due to the significant increase in the number of young voters. I am hopeful that the Congress will do well," Gogoi said, as per IANS.
"I don't want to tell you any numbers now, but our seats will increase than in the 2011 elections," he added.
Gogoi, who cast his ballot in his Titabar constituency, earlier urged people to vote in large numbers.
With over 48,000 persons manning the polling booths, intense security measures were in place in the state and the Indo-Bangla border along Barak Valley's Karimganj district sealed.
Altogether 535 companies of central security forces and state police were on duty in the 65 constituencies.
(With Agency inputs)