Nearly 80 percent of about 1.22 crore voters exercised their right to franchise across 56 constituencies in the second phase of elections to the West Bengal assembly on Sunday, amid allegations of sporadic violence and voter intimidation. “At 5 p.m., the overall polling percentage was 79.70 percent,” an Election Commission official said.
Long queues of voters were seen outside most polling booths despite the sweltering heat and humidity, as voting commenced at 7 a.m. There are about 1.22 crore registered voters, and 383 candidates, including 33 women. Balloting took place at 13,645 polling stations.
Five of the constituencies are in Alipurduar district, seven in Jalpaiguri, nine in North Dinajpur, six each in Darjeeling and South Dinajpur and 12 in Malda districts. The only south Bengal district going to the polls in this phase is Birbhum. Of its 11 constituencies, seven — Dubrajpur, Suri, Nalhati, Rampurhat, Sainthia, Hansan and Murarai — have been classified as affected by Left-wing extremism and polling in these areas ended two hours earlier than elsewhere at 4 p.m.
There were many people in queue when the scheduled time of polling ended in the other 45 constituencies at 6 p.m. “Polling percentage at 5 p.m. in Alipurduar was 82.07, Jalpaiguri recorded 77.69, Darjeeling 74.00, North Dinajpur 78.90, South Dinajpur 82.72, Malda 79.60 and Birbhum 82.89,” said the official.He said reserve polling officer Gopi Chakraborti — on duty in Alipurduar district — died after a stroke.
There was an initial poll boycott in seven booths of Malda over developmental issues. “However, polling started after the sector officer persuaded the people to lift the boycott.”
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There were allegations of false voting in the presence of the presiding officer in a booth in Malda’s English Bazar. Following a complaint lodged by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), the officer was removed. At Dumrut in Birbhum’s Bolpur constituency, three people were arrested following a clash between Trinamool Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party workers. In the district’s Rampurhat, a section of residents reportedly boycotted polls citing failure of the state government to provide basic electricity services. In Nanoor, Trinamool activists allegedly assaulted a polling agent of the CPI-M.
The BJP’s star candidate Locket Chatterjee, contesting from Mayureshwar, said the civic police were spotted with central forces inside a booth in the constituency.
A clash reportedly broke out between Trinamool and CPI-M workers outside a booth in Malda, in which two people were injured.
Meanwhile, despite the Election Commission’s constant surveillance, the Trinamool’s Birbhum chief and strongman Anubrata Mondal courted fresh controversy as he cast his vote after entering a booth sporting the party symbol on his kurta. While the EC has sought a report about the incident, Mondal put the onus of his “inadvertent” act of displaying the party symbol in the booth on the presiding officer, but refused to say sorry.
Besides being issued notice by the EC for his controversial remarks against opposition leaders, Mondal is under constant surveillance till the end of the poll process with his movements being video-graphed in the presence of central security forces and a local magistrate.