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Polling ends in Bengal's Maoist belt, turnout higher than 2009

Posted on May 07 2014 | IANS

Kolkata, May 7 : Polling for six Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal, including in the Maoist-affected Junglemahal area, saw over 80 percent of the electorate exercise their franchise Wednesday - a nearly four percent increase in comparison to the 2009 polls, said an official.

The Election Commission, in accordance with instructions from the poll panel in Delhi, took "prompt action" and kept a strict vigil on movement of polling agents.

As per the Commission's directive, detailed reports of all complaints received and action taken were relayed to the poll panel in Delhi every two hours since the start of the poll exercise Wednesday.

According to chief electoral officer Sunil Gupta, the process overall was "peaceful barring isolated incidents." No major incidents were reported.

"The average turnout till 6 p.m. stood at 81.28 percent. People are still in queues and the turnout is expected to increase," Gupta told reporters here.

The turnout in the 2009 elections stood at 77. 72.

Simultaneous bypoll was held to the state assembly in the Kotulpur constituency of Bankura district.

The areas going to the hustings included the Maoist heartland of Junglemahal -- the large forested stretches of West Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia districts -- where a massive security cover has been provided.

Two preventive arrests were made and two presiding officers removed while 28 electronic voting machines (EVM) had to be replaced.

Gupta claimed "prompt action was initiated" in all complaints.

"There were no serious complaints from political parties. There were no reports of booth capturing and major breach of law and order," he said.

Of the 11, 330 polling stations, 3985 were sensitive. As many as 291 digicams and 999 videocams were in use. Three choppers were pressed into service while central security force was deployed in all booths across the Maoist belt.

In Purulia's Ghatbera, a police case was initiated against village panchayat leader Monica Mahato for entering the poll booth without an identity card. The presiding officer was removed.

In the same seat, an assistant sub-inspector had forcibly entered the booth. A detailed investigation is on.

In Midnapore's Ajayabpur, a voter in drunken state damaged the electronic voting machine (EVM) which was replaced and the voter arrested.

In Asansol's Pandbeswar, several tribal voters were intimidated but after the intervention of sector officer and police officer, they were able to exercise their franchise peacefully.

In other incidents of scuffles spanning Bishnupur, the district officials were successful in dispersing the mob.

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