West Bengal and Assam recorded 80 per cent and 70 per cent voter turnout respectively today in the first phase of assembly elections, which the Election Commission said was “by and large peaceful”, with no reports of violence-related death or injury.
Though high, the voting percentage was lower than that recorded in the 2011 assembly polls in the same seats. “The figures are till 5 PM. With queues of voters still present outside polling stations, the figures could go up,” Deputy Election Commissioner Sandeep Saxena told.
The ruling Trinamool Congress today expressed satisfaction over the huge turnout in the first phase of Assembly polls and said the record turnout proves the ‘silent revolution’ that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had ushered in through development.
“The huge turnout in the first part of the first phase proves the silent revolution that Mamata Banerjee had brought in through massive developmental work in the junglemahal in last five years,” state panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee said.
Registering a heavy turnout, an estimated 79 per cent voters today cast their votes in 18 constituencies in the first part of the first phase in West Bengal till 5 PM, many of which are located in areas which had earlier witnessed Maoist violence.
Eighteen constituencies went to the polls in the first part of the first phase election, while elections will be held in another 31 seats in second part of the first phase on April 11.
“The huge turnout proves the confidence that the people have in Mamata Banerjee and TMC. The opposition will have to hide their faces after the results are announced on May 19,” TMC MP and leader of the party in Lok Sabha Sudip Bandopadhaya said.
On the allegations by opposition parties over TMC trying to create hurdles in the way of free and fair polls, Bandopadhaya said, “Those who don’t have any connect with the masses for five years, only make such baseless allegations during polls. These allegations are a desperate attempt to stay relevant.”
An estimated 51 per cent polling was recorded till 2 PM today in 65 constituencies of Assam to decide the fate of 539 contestants during the first phase of Assembly elections. Half of the 95,11,732 voters including Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi have cast their votes so far, election office sources said, adding 50.83 per cent polling was recorded across 2190 polling stations in 65 constituencies till 2 PM.
Besides Tarun Gogoi, the fates of BJP’s Chief Ministerial candidate Sarbananda Sonowal and his alliance partner AGP’s Working President Atul Bora will be decided in the first phase polls. First time voters were seen enthusiastically standing in long queues along with others for hours as many of the polling booths wore a festive look.
Some of the booths were adorned with multi-coloured festoons and buntings, others with red, blue, white and orange balloons and yet some had earthen urns painted with smiling human faces on them. The ruling Congress, the BJP-AGP-BPF alliance and the AIUDF, CPM, CPI-M, CPI-(M)-(L) are in the fray.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi along with his wife Dolly Gogoi, son and MP Gaurav Gogoi and brother Deep Gogoi were among the early voters to stand in line to press the EVM button at the Debicharan Baruah Girls High School polling station.
Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in some polling centres were reported to have malfunctioned, briefly halting voting but once they were replaced voting continued uninterrupted, election office sources said. With over 48,000 persons manning the polling booths, security measures have been put in place in the state and the Indo-Bangla border along Barak Valley’s Karimganj district sealed.
CCTV cameras and web casting facilities have also been put in place by the election office for a free and fair election. Altogether 535 companies of central security forces and state police have been deployed in the 65 constituencies spread across Upper Assam, two hill districts, northern bank of Brahmaputra Valley, besides Barak Valley.
For today’s first phase of polling Congress is contesting in all the 65 constituencies, BJP in 54 and its alliance partners - AGP in 11 and BPF in three, AIUDF in 27, CPI and CPM in ten each with CPI(ML)(L) in six along with 60 others of unrecognised parties and 13 Independents. The remaining 61 seats will go to the polls in the second and final phase of polling on April 11. (Also read: EC to review poll preparations in TN, Puducherry next week)
Voting underway in West Bengal
Heavy turnout was recorded in the first phase of Assembly election in West Bengal today with over 63 per cent of the voters casting their ballots till 1 PM in 18 constituencies, many of which are in areas earlier dominated by Maoists. Serpentine queues were seen in front of many polling booths since morning as villagers tried to avoid the scorching midday sun.
So far there has been no report of any violence or disturbance. “There were some issues with EVMs in some booths which were immediately addressed and polling is going on smoothly. We got some other complaints also and they have been addressed,” Additional Chief Electoral Officer Dibyendu Sarkar told PTI. Polling began at 7 AM with a tight multi-layered security cover in place. (Also read. Cong manifesto promises all round progress in West Bengal)
Key candidates in this phase include Sukumar Hansda, minister-in-charge of tribal affairs department, who is fighting from Jhargram. Of the 18 seats, 13 are in Jangalmaahal area earlier affected by Maoist violence where voting will end at 4 PM due to security considerations.
In the remaining five constituencies of Purulia, Manbazar, Kashipur, Para and Raghunathpur voting will go on till 6 PM. For aerial surveillance, two choppers have been conducting regular sorties. There are total 4,945 polling stations out of which 1,962 have been classified as critical by the Election Commission. Voter Verifiable Audit Trails (VVAT) are being done in 562 polling stations. (Also read. WB Assembly polls: 7 candidates own assets worth less than Rs 1,000)
Over 40 lakh electorate will decide the fates of 133 candidates, including 11 women, who have been wooing voters in the first part of the first phase of the elections. There are a minimum of three security layers, including sector forces and a quick response team. Central forces are present in every polling booth and depending on the requirement, the deployment of forces are increased, EC sources said.