Heavy voter turnout, stray incidents in West Bengal
Disregarding the sweltering heat, voters turned up in large numbers with around 83 percent polling being recorded as voting came to an end in six Lok Sabha constituencies of West Bengal Thursday.
The authorities said the polling process in the second phase of elections in the state - after four constituencies voted a week back - was overall peaceful, marred by stray incidents and allegations.
The turnout was around 83 percent but set to go up as there were people still in queues as the time for voting ended at 6 p.m.
There were reports of crude bombs being hurled close to a polling booth in Kathalberia under Kaliachak police station in Malda district, while rival parties accused each other of indulging in rigging and other electoral malpractices at several polling stations.
Despite the temperature being close to 40 degrees Celsius in many areas, the young and the old, men and women patiently stood in the long queues for hours to cast their votes for Jangipur, Murshidabad, Malda North, Malda South, Balurghat and Raiganj seats since polling booths opened at 7 a.m., an official said.
The Election Commission removed presiding officers of three booths in Murshidabad district for allowing "illegal entry" to Trinamool Congress candidate from Jangipur Haji Nurul Islam, an official said.
The Congress had complained to the EC that Islam illegally entered the booths under Sagardighi assembly segment along with several party workers.
Polling was stalled for some time at a booth under Itahar assembly segment of Balurghat constituency following allegations that all votes were being registered against the name of a particular candidate.
The authorities said polling resumed after changing the malfunctioning EVM but denied the charge that all votes were being registered in favour of any particular candidate.
The Congress demanded repolling in a booth in Malda district after two of its candidates - union minister Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury from Malda South and Mausam Benazir Noor from Malda North - could not cast their votes due to malfunctioning of EVMs.
Both Noor and Choudhury alleged rigging, voters being prevented from casting votes and insufficient deployment of central security personnel in their respective constituencies.
Congress candidate from Balurghat in South Dinajpur district Om Prakash Mishra also alleged malpractices by the ruling Trinamool in some of the booths.
An electorate of 8.3 million - nearly half of them women - was eligible to choose representatives from a field of 78 candidates and cast their ballots at 9,755 polling stations spread over four districts - Muslim majority Malda and Murshidabad, besides North Dinajpur and South Dinajpur.
The four main rivals - Trinamool Congress, Left Front, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party - are competing in all the constituencies. Among the Left Front partners, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) is in action in five constituencies and the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) in one.
Among the star candidates in this phase are union ministers Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury (Malda South) and Deepa Dasmunsi (Raiganj) as also President Pranab Mukherjee's son Abhijit Mukherjee (Jangipur) - all Congress.
Popular Bengali band singer Soumitra Roy (Malda North) and theatre personality Arpita Ghosh (Balurghat) are nominees of the Trinamool Congress, while CPI-M central committee member Mohammad Salim is in the fray from Raiganj where the BJP has fielded famed actor Nimu Bhaumik.
The results of this phase are crucial for the Congress which had bagged five seats in 2009 from these constituencies.
The other seat - Balurghat - had gone to the RSP.
West Bengal has 42 Lok Sabha constituencies of which four voted April 17.
The next three phases of polling in the state will be on April 30 (nine seats), May 7 (six seats) and May 12 (17 constituencies).
(Posted on 24-04-2014)