BeyondHeadlines Special correspondent
Kolkata: An estimated 15 perecnt turnout have been recorded in the first two hours of the ongoing polls in West Bengal. Long ques are being seen at almost all polling stations in the 54 constituencies in six northern districts. Polling began at 7 am. In some places, people cast their vote in candlelight due to power cuts and, in a few polling booths, electronic voting machines (EVMs) malfunctioned only to be set right soon. But polling proceeded smoothly.
From the hill station of Darjeeling to Malda, famed for its mouthwatering mangoes, there was great enthusiasm among people who lined up attired in their best to choose their representatives from among 364 candidates.
According to sources in state Chief Electoral Officer’s office, around 15 percent polling was recorded in Malda and North Dinajpur Districts, while about 10 percent voters exercised their franchise in Jalpaiguri, South Dinajpur and Darjeeling Districts till 9 a.m. Twenty percent polling was reported from Cooch Behar District.
The ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Front faces its biggest ever challenge in its 34 years of rule from the Trinamool Congress-Congress combine.
The fate of 11 ministers of the Left Front will be decided during the day by over 97 lakh voters in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Malda districts.
Security has been beefed up in all the six districts.
The CPI-M is contesting 32 seats, the Communist Party of India (CPI) two, Forward Bloc 10, Revolutionary Communist Party (RSP) nine, Socialist Party one, Trinamool Congress 26, Congress 27, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) one, and Bharatiya Janata Party 49.
Also in the fray are the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) in three constituencies, Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) three, Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League three.
Of the 54 constituencies, 16 are reserved for Scheduled Castes and eight for Scheduled Tribes.
Polling for the crucial assembly polls for 294 seats in the eastern state will be held in six phases. The next phases will be held April 23 (for 50 constituencies), April 27 (75), May 3 (63), May 7 (38) and May 10 (14). The votes will be counted May 13.