Kolkata: Around 23 percent polling was reported in the first two hours in the first phase of the West Bengal assembly elections that began at 7.00 a.m. on Monday. Polling began in 18 constituencies spread across three western districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia amid tight security.
The 18 constituencies include nine in Purulia, three in Bankura and six in West Midnapore. "A little over 23 percent turnout has been recorded in the first two hours. There are no reports of violence," said an election commission official.
"An average of 24 percent polling was reported in West Midnapore, 22.5 percent in Bankura and 23.4 percent in Purulia," added the official. The commission also received nearly 60 complaints mostly of electronic voting machine malfunctioning in the first two hours while a presiding officer in a booth in Balarampur in Purulia was changed following allegations of trying to influence voters.
Both the Congress and the Left Front alleged Trinamool Congress activists were attempting to influence and intimidate voters in several booths in Purulia, a charge which was rubbished by the ruling party. The Trinamool, the Congress-Left Front combine and the Bharatiya Janata Party, all are in the fray for the 18 constituencies.
On the security front, a multi-layered ring has been put in place across the constituencies with at least one section of central force comprising 10 security personnel been deployed in each of the polling stations in 13 Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected constituencies where the polling will end two hours early at 4.00 p.m.
Besides helicopters carrying out sorties, an air-ambulance and quick response teams are on standby. As many as 40,09,171 electors including 16 transgender voters will exercise their franchise in the first stage which has 133 candidates in the fray.
The staggered six-phase elections for 294 assembly seats are spread over seven polling dates and will continue till May 5. Among major candidates in the fray are state minister Sukumar Hansda of the Trinamool from Jhargram and CPI-M's Pulin Bihari Baske contesting from Gopiballavpur. The other six polling dates are April 11, 17, 21, 25, 30 and May 5.