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20 per cent polling recorded till noon in Bengal

By Staff
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Kolkata, Apr 17 (UNI) An estimated 20 per cent of 3.2 million electorate exercised their rights to franchise till noon in the first of the five-phase Assembly election to 45 seats in three Maoist-dominated South Bengal districts.

Election office sources here said West Midnapore recorded for 20 per cent turnout, while the other two districts of Bankura and Purulia recorded 22 per cent and 20 per cent respectively with no untoward incident reported so far.

The sensitive Maoist-dominated Belpahari, Lalgarh, Kankrajhor, Banspahari and Goaltor in West Midnapore, Jhalda, Jaipur and Bandowan in Purulia and Ranibandh in Bankura witnessed a very thin turnout with the para military forces literally outnumbering the electorate.

Polling at Salboni, Garbetta and the much-vaunted Keshpur and Chota Angaria in West Midnapore district was going on smoothly but at a snail's pace with the polling officials checking the identity cards of each and every voter.

However, long queues were witnessed in front of every booth in the towns of all the three districts. In some of the booths, women had outnumbered their male counterparts.

In rural Bankura, voters attired at their best and some clad in new clothes were seen standing in the queues.

In one polling station in Bankura and Purulia districts and in two polling stations in Midnapore district, the electorate boycotted poll, demanding development.

Polling was also cancelled at Hirakund booth under Maoist- dominated Raghunathpur constituency of Purulia district due to absence of voters.

Two helicopters were making aerial surveillance and 3,000 digital cameras were in action to capture any voter without photo identity cards and abnormal incident inside booths.

Altogether 92 Observers - two each for 37 constituencies and eight each for as many - were supervising polling.

In all 300 companies of Central Para Military Force, including CRPF, BSF and ITBP, were deployed to ensure free and fair election.

The Central forces stood on guard in every 50 metre.

Some Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) developed snags in West Midnapore district, but later they EVMs were replaced.

The fate of altogether 227 candidates, including Health Minister Surjyakanta Mishra, Water Resources Minister Nanda Gopal Bhattacharya, Backward Classes Welfare Minister Upen Kisku and Ministers of State Bilasibala Sahis and Susanta Ghosh would be decided in today's election.

Former Ministers Partha De and Sambhu Mandi and swimmer Bula Choudhury, making her electoral debut as a CPI (M) candidate, were among other prominent aspirants.

While West Midnapore accounts for 21 constituencies, including the sensitive ones in Keshpur, Pingla, Debra and Garbetta (East and West), Bankura for 13 constituencies, including Ranibandh (ST), Taldanga and Raipur (ST), and Purulia for 11, including Bandowan, Jhalda and Jaypur and Arsa.

There were, however, no straight contest in any of the constituencies. While three constituencies were witnessing the highest of ten candidates fighting for the seat, the lowest number of candidates were three for eight constituencies.

UNI KDG-XC SJC YA ND1152

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