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20 per cent polling in first three hours in Bengal

Written by: Staff

Kolkata, Apr 27 (UNI) An estimated 20 per cent polling was recorded in the first three hours in the third phase of Assembly elections to 76 seats in Kolkata and North and South 24 Parganas districts in West Bengal with no untoward incident reported so far.

Braving scorching sun, people turned out in large numbers. Long queues were witnessed in front of every booth. Women outnumbered men in several polling stations.

Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Debasish Sen told UNI that he could not cast his vote at a booth in Prakash Bhawan under Belgachia East constituency due a to technical snag in the EVM.

Mr Sen and Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia said the polling had so far been peaceful and no untoward incident reported so far.

In several booths under Belgachia East, Baranagar and Alipore constituencies, EVMs developed technical snags, forcing the polling to kick off late.

At a booth in Salt Lake area under Belgacha Assembly seat, Deputy Election Commissioner Anand Kumar was gheraoed by some 300 people, who protested against the deletion of their names from the electoral rolls and demanded that they be allowed to cast vote on the basis of photo identity cards.

Mr Kumar paid a patient hearing to what they said and assured them of looking into the matter.

More than 50,000 central para miliatry force jawans and mobile vans are manning all the 13,790 polling booths and patrolling streets.

Like the first two phases, 3,000 digital cameras are in operation to take photographs of voters without having photo identity cards and of anyone indulging in malpractices. Police pickets have been posted at every entry point.

While a CISF Jawan in one of the booths in Belgachia East said, ''We are keeping a strict vigil on the proceedings. No body is allowed to enter the booths with mobile phone on. They have to keep their identity cards in their hands and also know their booth number. We are cooperating with everyone as long as they are on the right side of the law.'' Last night, the Election Commission removed two Observers for Belgachia Assembly constituency on the basis of complaints by the CPI(M). Those, who have taken over as Observers for this constituency, which had often been in the midst of controversy, are Anil Sandhu, Mr Ashok Siwani, Mr D N Bhar, Mr Ashish Chakraborty, Mr Din Ahmed and Mr Lalit Mohan.

Altogether 12.5 million electorate will exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 473 candidates, including 36 women.

Prominent among those contesting elections are Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Information Technology Minister Manab Mukherjee, Labour Minister Mohammad Amin, Housing Minister Gautam Deb, Land Reforms Minister Abdur Rezzak Molla, Sundarbans Development Minister Kanti Ganguly, Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta, PWD Minister Amar Chaudhury, Transport Minister Subhas Chakravarty and Assembly Speaker Hasim Abdul Halim.

Former city Mayor Subrata Mukherjeee is also in the fray as a Congress candidate, while Bengali film stars Biplab Chatterjee and Tapas Paul are locked in glamour fight as CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress nominees respectively.

Election to Bhatpara Assembly seat, countermanded following the death of BSP candidate, would take place on May 16.

While Kolkata accounts for 21 seats with 24,34,221 voters, North 24 Parganas for 27 seats with 52,26,801 voters and South 24 Parganas for 28 seats with 49,52,239 electorate.

The number of polling stations is 2596 in Kolkata and 5712 and 5482 respectively in North and South 24 Parganas.

The city's Burra Bazar constituency has the maximum number of contestants - 13 - while as low as three candidates are in the fray each from Bishnupur(East) and Falta in South 24 Parganas and Panihati in North 24 Parganas.

The largest Assembly Constituency in terms of voters is Barasat in North 24 Parganas with an electorate of 32,10,342, while Sealdah in Kolkata with only 65,157 voters is the smallest one.


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