BeyondHeadlines Special Correspondent
Kolkata: An estimated 50 percent polling have been recorded til 1 p.m. in the 54 constituencies in West Bengal where voting for the first of six phases is going on. Around 97,62,159 voters had exercised their franchise.
As many as 364 candidates are in the fray in the 54 constituences spread across six North Bengal districts.
Additional Chief Electoral Officer Nikhil Kumar Sahani said around 50 percent turnout had been recorded till 1 pm with no major untoward incident reported from any part of the six districts.
He said a Presiding Officer was removed after being found talking to a ruling party candidate over mobile telephone in South Dinajpur Assembly constituency.
On a specific allegation from Opposition Trinamool Congress, the Presiding Officer was removed after it was found that he was talking to Cottage and Small Scale Industries Minister and CPI(M) candidate Narayan Biswas, who was pitted against Trinamool Congress nominee Biplab Mitra from the Harirampur constituency.
It was alleged that the Presiding Officer was talking to Biswas for a long time, said Sahani adding the Presiding Officer’s name was not, however, disclosed owing to ongoing investigation on the allegation.
Sahani said that the hills registered comparatively lower turnout of voters than the plains.
Darjeeling, South Dinajpur and Malda districts rcorded an impressive turnout of voters after polling began at 0700 hours today. Polling was satisfactory in North Dinajpur, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts.
Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Surajit Kar Purakayastha said the polling was peaceful and smooth. Polling will end at 5 pm.
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 is being 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)- will be decided today.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has 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, is a major factor in today’s polling.
The Adivasi Vikash Parishad, a new organisation set up to oppose the demand for Gorkhaland, has also put up candidates for several seats.
Among the Left Front partners, the CPI(M) has candidates in 32 seats, followed by the Forward Bloc (10), RSP (9), CPI (2) and Samajwadi Party (1).
The Congress has 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, have been deployed to ensure free and fair elections. As many as 39 Central observers have been pressed into service.