Amid reports of violence, 20 percent polling in Bengal

Kolkata: Amid allegations of violence and voter intimidation, nearly 20 percent of polling was recorded in the first two hours in 31 constituencies spread over three districts in part two of the opening phase of the West Bengal assembly elections on Monday.

Polling began at 7 a.m. in 31 constituencies of which 13 are in West Midnapore and nine each in Bankura and Burdwan districts.

"Till 9 a.m., 19.95 percent polling has been recorded. The turnout in West Midnapore is 23.97 percent, 16.92 percent in Bankura and 18.95 percent in Burdwan," said an Election Commission official.

While the official claimed the poll to be peaceful so far, there were reports of violence from several places.

Several crude bombs, kept in a bag were recovered from near a booth in Jamuria in Asansol of Burdwan district, while a CPI-M polling agent had to be hospitalised after being attacked at a polling booth in Chandrakona in West Midnapore.

Both the Congress and CPI-M claimed several of their polling agents were being driven out and voters were prevented from voting by Trinamool Congress.

"Since last night, Trinamool goons have been on the prowl, intimidating voters and attacking polling agents. Such is the condition that we are not getting polling agents. There has been widespread violence, voter intimidation, polling is far from peaceful in Sabang," Trinamool leader and former state minister Manas Bhuniya said.

CPI-M state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra too said voters were being prevented from entering booths in his constituency Narayangarh.

An electorate of nearly 70 lakh (69,79,788), including 33,68,311 females and 50 third genders, are eligible to choose their representatives from a field of 163 candidates. Twenty one of the contestants are women.

Voting is being held across 8,465 polling stations including two auxiliary stations amid high security.

The Trinamool, the LF-Congress combine and the BJP are locking horns in all the seats.

Among the LF constituents, the CPI-M has put up 19 candidates, followed by the Communist Party of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party, All India Forward Bloc and the Democratic Socialist Party (Prabodh Chandra) in one each. The Congress is in the race in eight constituencies.

Other outfits like Bahujan Samaj party and the Shiv Sena have also fielded a number of candidates.

In the 2011 assembly polls, the Trinamool Congress had bagged 17 and its then ally Congress bagged three seats. The Left Front, then in power, won the remaining 11.

The star candidates in this round include CPI-M state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra (Narayangarh), state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh (Kharagpur Sadar), former Pradesh Congress president Manas Bhunia (Sabang) and 91 year old Congress nominee Gyan Singh Sohanpal (Kharagpur Sadar).

Providing the glam touch is Bengali film actor Soham Chakraborty, who has thrown his hat into the ring from Bankura district's Barjora constituency on a Trinamool ticket.

Voters in 18 constituencies -- six in West Midnapore, nine in Purulia and three in Bankura -- exercised their franchise on the first polling day on April 4. That was part one of the first phase.

Polling for the remaining phases will be held on April 17, 21, 25, 30 and May 5.

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