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More than 65 per cent turnout in peaceful Bengal Assy polls

Written by: Staff
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Kolkata, Apr 17 (UNI) Virtually rejecting the Maoist poll boycott call, more than 65 per cent voters of the 3.2 million electorate exercised their right to franchise in the first phase of polling for 45 seats in the three South Bengal districts till 1600 hours in the Assembly elections in West Bengal today, held under an unprecedented security.

This was the first round of voting in the state which will have a five-phased election.

Election officials said the polling was peaceful and brisk and there was no allegation of any malpractice.

'' The polling is going on smoothly and there has been no report of any untoward incident, '' they added.

West Midnapore District Magistrate Ajay Nanda said around 70 per cent electorate exercised their rights to franchise, while Bankura District Magistrate Prabhat Kumar Mishra said the turnout was more than 65 per cent in the district and Purulia District Magistrate Mukul Kanti Sarkar said the district accounted for an estimated 65 per cent.

The Bankura District Magistrate said repoll would be held in two booths because of the technical snag in the EVMs.

Large number of voters thronged the booths at Chhoto Angaria and Salboni of West Midnapore and Purulia's Bandwan, where the extremists had killed CPI(M) leader Rabindranath Kar and triggered a landmine blast.

Polling was also normal in Bandwan of Purulia district, another hotbed of the Maoists, while 80 per cent votes had already been cast at Amlasol of West Midnapore, where five persons had allegedly died of starvation last year.

The underground outfit had called for boycotting polls in some areas of these three districts.

People boycotted the vote in five booths of Purulia under Raghunathpur, Arsha, Mangunj and Jaipur Assembly constituencies and three other booths of Bankura and West Midnapore in protest against tardy development.

People also boycotted polling in one booth under Parasdanga Assembly constituency in Belpahari folowing the Maoist threat.

With two helicopters making aerial patrolling in the extremist -dominated areas, about 60 companies of Central Para Military Force jawnas had been deployed across the three districts, guarding every polling booth, patrolling and conducting landmine detection along with the state police.

The security cover was unprecedented in Belpahari, bordering Jharkhand and Orissa, the hotbed of Maoist activities.

Polling remained suspended for about an hour in 50 booths of Purulia district after electronic voting machine (EVM) developed snag. However, polling resumed after the machines were replaced.

A report from Bankura said a voter was injured when he was run over by a car of the Election Commission at Bishnupur in Bankura district.

A report from West Midnapore said a Presiding Officer was manhandled by central force jawans at a booth in Khanakuri village of Nayagram that triggered commotion. However, normalcy returned soon in the area.

West Bengal Pradesh Congress Working president Pradip Bhattacharjee alleged that CPI(M) workers had initiated disturbances in some booths of Sabong constituency of West Midnapore, though the CEO denied having knowledge of any such incident.

CPI(M) state committee Secretary and Left Front Committee Chairman Biman Bose said the polling was going on smoothly with the administration and the Election Commission discharging duties in close cooperation.

Meanwhile, IG (Law and Order) Raj Kanoria said there was no report of any incident.

Altogether 58 companies of Para Military forces were deployed to ensure a free and fair election in addition to about 10,000 state armed police personnel.

A large number of Radio Flying squad and mobile armed forces were also pressed into service to prevent any untoward incident, he said adding two army chopers had been pressed into service.

Crack commando forces had been deployed along the West Bengal-Jharkhand border, which had been sealed to prevent any infiltration.

He said some incidents of EVM going out of order poured in and there were some reports of booth jamming but were resolved with immediate intervention pf security personnel.

He, however, denied any incident of forcible entry into any booth.

Eds: Please pick up suitably from earlier series.

UNI KDG-ABA-XC SJC RP KN1833

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