Kolkata: The second phase of West Bengal's electoral battle passed off peacefully Saturday with around 83 percent of electors voting in 50 constituencies across three districts.
Enthusiasm was high among first-time voters as also with old-timers, and women outnumbered men in many booths that saw long queues since voting opened at 7 am.
Over 93 lakh people in 11,531 polling stations spread over Murshidabad, Nadia and Birbhum districts were eligible to vote to elect their representatives from among 293 candidates.
Murshidabad has 22 seats, Nadia 17 and Birbhum 11.
"As per information till 6:30 pm., 83 percent of voters have exercised their voting right," Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Kumar Zutsi said.
"The number will go up as in 20-30 percent of the polling booths there were people standing in queue when the scheduled time got over at 5 p.m.," he added.
After a record 84.11 percent turnout in the first phase of elections April 18 (54 constituencies in six northern districts), the poll caravan has moved on to south Bengal, which holds the key to government formation as over 80 percent of the seats are from this region.
While the overall voting proceeded smoothly, there were a few minor incidents. Three people were arrested for violence and irregularity.
A polling agent of a Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) candidate in Murshidabad was taken into custody after postal ballots were found in his possession, said an election officer.
Workers of the CPI-M and the Congress clashed outside a polling station at Beldanga of Murshidabad district, leading to two arrests.
A presiding officer in Ranaghat South constituency in Nadia district was replaced for influencing voters inside the polling station and another officer in Bharatpur in Murshidabad was replaced after he fell ill.
People resorted to a vote boycott in 17 polling stations - 13 in Rejinagar constituency of Murshidabad and four booths in Kaliganj of Nadia district - over local issues.
Voting was delayed for a few minutes in some polling stations due to malfunctioning of the electronic voting machines (EVM). At least 91 EVMs were replaced in the three districts, said Zutsi.
The CPI-M-led ruling Left Front faces its biggest ever challenge in its 34 years of rule from the Trinamool Congress-Congress combine.
Prominent candidates in the second phase include CPI-M leader and state minister Anisur Rehman, union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's son Avijit Mukherjee, who is contesting on a Congress ticket, and former high court judge and Trinamool Congress nominee Nure Alam Chowdhury.
Rukbanur Rahman, brother of computer graphics teacher Rizwanur Rahman who was killed a month after he married the daughter of Kolkata-based industrialist Ashok Todi, and Baul (folk) singer Parikkhit Bala are also in the race as Trinamool Congress nominees.
The CPI-M has fielded candidates in 31 seats, while its Left Front partners Revolutionary Socialist Party, Forward Bloc and Communist Party of India are contesting in nine, five and one seat, respectively, leaving three seats to other minor parties.
The Trinamool is in the race in 29 and the Congress in 21 constituencies. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is contesting in all the 50 constituencies.
A total of 488 companies of central police forces were deployed in the second phase of assembly poll, Zutsi said.
The last four phases of the state's assembly polls will be held April 27 (75 constituencies), May 3 (63), May 7 (38) and May 10 (14).
The votes for the 294 seats will be counted May 13.
First Published: Saturday, April 23, 2011, 21:39