Siliguri (IBNS): Polling ended peacefully for the first leg of the staggered six-phase West Bengal elections as high percentage of voters exercised their democratic right.
A total of 54 Assembly Constituencies (ACs) underwent polls in the first phase in the six northern districts of Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur and Malda.
The total votes cast in north Bengal is 70 percent.
As polling ended at 5 p.m., the voting percentages are Jalpaiguri 67 percent, Malda 68.42 perccent, Coochbehar 74.3 percent, Uttar Dinajpur 67.03 percent, Dakshin Dinajpur 74.33 percent and Darjeeling 70 percent.
No major incident of violence has been reported yet.
Though the overall polling is progressing peacefully, the Left Front alleged that fake threat sms-es are beings sent in the name of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to the voters.
Bhattacharjee’s election agent Bikash Bhattacharjee said although the Left Front is sending out sms-es to people as a part of its campaign, the CM is not sending out any messages personally.
He accused the opposition for maligning the image of the chief minister and said a complaint has been lodged at the Election Commission in this regard. He also said the Left Front will hold a press conference in the evening to clarify the matter.
Meanwhile, clashes between Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and voters were reported from Coochbehar’s Sitalbari area.
In a separate incident, Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) candidate from Coochbehar’s Natabari, Tamser Ali, alleged that Trinamool Congress (TMC) activists were obstructing voters to enter the booth in the area. He said he has complained to the Election Commission (EC) in this regard.
In Darjeeling, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung said: “We will continue with our movement for separate statehood (Gorkhaland) even after the assembly elections are over.”
“Trinamool Congress (TMC)-Congress will come to power. After seeing their up coming moves and perception on the issue, we will take the next step,” he said.
“Without condition we have supported the TMC-Congress alliance. Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) has to leave West Bengal now, they have exploited us for long. We have to remove CPI-M from here,” Gurung said.
CPI-M heavyweight in North Bengal Ashok Bhattacharya said: “In West Bengal, which includes Siliguri, people have seen all round development over the years since 77. People have seen this and this is a fact and reality.”
“Every election is different from each other. We consider each and every election as the first one and different from the previous one. In 2001, the situation was like this year, but we won by significant numbers of votes and will win this year also,” he said.
The West Bengal elections began at 7 am on Monday amid elaborate security arrangements in the northern districts of the state.
The balloting in the northern districts that continued till 5 pm marks the beginning of the polls that will end on May 10 for the state’s 294 assembly seats.
In the first phase the total number of voters is 9762159 spread over 12131 polling stations.
A total of 346 candidates are in the fray.
While the Left traditionally sweeps the northern region undergoing polls Monday, in this election the growing strength of opposition led by Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress is a big threat to the over 34-year-long Left rule now, considerably weakened by its industrialization and land acquisition policies.
The total number of voters in West Bengal taking into account all six phases is 5,60,91,973.
The counting of votes will take place on May 13.
The polling process is being monitored with the help of digital camera, video camera and webcasting.