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West Bengal polls: Over 79 pc turnout in 2nd phase

Second phase involved about 1.22 cr voters, 383 candidates, and 13,645 polling stations

Policy Pulse
Publish Date: Apr 17 2016 3:52PM | Updated Date: Apr 17 2016 7:52PM

West Bengal polls: Over 79 pc turnout in 2nd phase

 Demo photo

In middle of accusations of sporadic violence and voter intimidation, over 79.70 percent voters exercised their right to franchise till 5 pm, across 56 constituencies in the second phase of elections to the West Bengal Assembly on Sunday.
Long queues of voters were seen outside most of the polling booths, since voting commenced at 7 a.m. The second phase of the polls involved about 1.22 crore registered voters, 383 candidates, including 33 women, and 13,645 polling stations.
Five of the constituencies were in Alipurduar district, seven in Jalpaiguri, nine in North Dinajpur, six each in Darjeeling and South Dinajpur and 12 in Malda districts.
Only south Bengal district going to the polls in this phase was Birbhum. Of its 11 constituencies, seven -- Dubrajpur, Suri, Nalhati, Rampurhat, Sainthia, Hansan and Murarai -- have been classified as affected by Left-wing extremism.
There were charges 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 held following a clash between Trinamool Congress (TMC) 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 Communist Party of India-Marxist.
Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) 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 TMC and CPI-M workers outside a booth in Malda, injuring two.
In the meantime, despite the Election Commission's constant surveillance, Trinamool's Birbhum chief and strongman Anubrata Mondal courted fresh controversy by entering a booth sporting a party symbol on his shirt and casting his vote.
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.
The EC move came in the wake of the demand by opposition parties and civil society members for his arrest to create an atmosphere conducive to holding of free and fair polls.
As many as 2,909 polling stations have been earmarked as vulnerable and special arrangements made for them by the poll panel, which has also identified 3,827 people as trouble-mongers and over 16,000 as vulnerable voters in the 56 constituencies.
In the 2011 assembly polls in these constituencies, then allies TMC and the Congress had won 18 seats each, the Left Front 15, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha three and independents won on two seats.
This time, the TMC is contesting 55 seats, the BJP 53, the Congress 23, Left Front 34, and the GJM three.
In Darjeeling district's Siliguri, former Indian football captain and TMC nominee Baichung Bhutia was pitted against former state minister and CPI-M heavyweight Asok Bhattacharya.
The state is having a staggered six-phase election. Polling for the remaining phases will be held on April 21, 25, 30 and May 5.