Record voter turnout in Bengal since 1952
Kolkata, May 10 (UNI) Even though a high turnout has always been the hallmark in hustings in West Bengal, a record 81.62 per cent of the total 48.6 million-strong electorate exercised its franchise in the just-concluded Assembly polls.
Leaving election watchers guessing, the poll percentage surpassed the previous highest of 80.64 per cent turnout in 1996.
In the 2001 Assembly polls, 75 per cent voters exercised their franchise, while a 78 per cent turnout was recorded in the Lok Sabha polls, held in 2004.
The marathon five-phase 2006 elections were held between April 17 and May 8. Kolkata and its two adjoining districts, which went to the polls in the third phase, witnessed the lowest polling percentage of 78 per cent while 81 to 82 per cent turnout was recorded in all the other districts.
The election office said a large number of the total 54,000-odd booths in the state registered between 85 and 90 per cent polling, a feat perhaps unparallel in the country.
However, no repolling was ordered in any of these booths as the EC endorsed them as ''fair'' after scrutiny of all aspects.
Long queues before the polling booths was a common feature of the staggered polls with voting continuing hours beyond 1700 hrs, the concluding time.
The huge turnout perplexed political parties, even though all of them claimed that the additional votes would go in their favour.
The opposition, which in the past had cried foul over the sustained high poll percentage, did not complain about any malpractice and in fact welcomed higher turnout. The ruling Left Front, fighting a battle of attrition with the Election Commission, also admitted that the polls were absolutely peaceful.
While the political parties kept their fingers crossed about the reason for the surge in votes, Chief Electoral Officer(CEO) Debasish Sen attributed it to the ''conscience building measures'' of the EC.
''The turnout proves that the people's consciousness is increasing as a result of the measures taken by the EC,'' he observed.
The CEO pointed out the Commission had been working for more than six months for a thorough revision of the electoral rolls and sent observers repeatedly to oversee the whole process. It also arranged deployment of a large number of para-military force personnel to ensure smooth polling. ''The whole exercise must have strengthened the people's confidence,'' he said.
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