Kolkata, May 3 : Polling began in Bardhaman, Birbhum and Murshidabad districts of West Bengal at 0700 hrs today for the fourth and penultimate phase of Assembly elections in the state.
Official sources said the polling started peacefully with large number of voters, including women, queuing up in front of polling booths in many areas.
More than 9.3 million people will exercise their franchise in 57 constituencies to elect representatives from among 288 candidates -- 20 of them women.
Prominent among the aspirants are Animal Resources Minister Anisur Rehman, Power Minister Mrinal Banerjee and Industries Minister Nirupam Sen, contesting as Left Front nominees, and Congress candidate Habibur Rehman and CLP leader Atish Sinha.
With the Election Commission carrying out an intensive revision of electoral rolls, a whopping 2.55 lakh names had been deleted from the voter's list in these three districts.
Altogether 435 companies of paramilitary jawans have been deployed to man all the 10,436 polling booths spread over 26 constituencies in Bardhaman, 19 in Murshidabad and 12 in Birbhum.
Vigil has been heightened in the inter-state border between Jharkhand and the three poll-going districts, particularly Birbhum, having a long boundary with the neighbouring state on the west, to prevent infiltration of miscreants and smuggling of arms.
A total of 12,619 EVMs are being used in the elections, while the sensitive booths have come under the scanner of close circuit cameras.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Debasish Sen said 95 to 97 per cent of the voters in these three districts had been covered by the Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC) programme and the rest would be photographed inside the booths with the help of digital cameras.
With a slow pace of polling being reported from many places during polling in the first three phases, the EC decided to press into service additonal polling officers from the fourth pahse onward to cope with the rush.
The average polling in the first three phases, which ended peacefully, was 78 per cent.
While, Murshidabad has traditionally been a Congress stronghold, Bardhaman, the rice bowl of Bengal, and Birbhum are dominated by the Left.
The Kandi seat in Murshidabad has the highest number of 11 contestants, while Domkal, Asansol, Raigunj, Galsi, Bardhaman South, Kandakosh, Ketugram and Nanur constituencies have only three nominees each.
While, Durgapur-II seat has the largest number of voters-- 261664 -- Hirapur has the smallest number with only 136100 - strong electorate.