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Peaceful voting, 75 percent turnout in West Bengal
Published on 28 Apr. 2011 12:36 AM IST
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West Bengal witnessed peaceful voting in the third phase of the six-phase assembly elections Wednesday that saw around 75 percent votes cast in 75 constituencies in Kolkata and two neighbouring districts, officials said. Today’s voting will decide the fate of Chief Minister Buddadeb Bhattacharje and eleven of his ministers.
A total of 14,419,669 people in Kolkata and the districts of North and South 24-Parganas were eligible to elect their representatives from among 479 contestants. Two women died while standing in long queues outside the polling stations.
“In South 24 Parganas district, a woman died of sunstroke in Kultali while waiting in the queue to vote. Another woman died when she slipped and sustained a head injury after coming out of a polling booth in Canning West,” said District Magistrate N.S. Nigam.
People milled at the booths in strength as the day passed of peacefully, save some small incidents of violence. Seventeen presiding officers were removed for poll irregularities, state chief electoral office sources said.
“Till 5.15 p.m., about 75 percent of the electorate have voted. People are still in queue outside polling booths. So the number will go up,” said official sources.
South 24 Parganas had the highest turnout at around 80 percent, followed by North 24 Parganas of around 77 percent. Kolkata recorded around 60 percent. Kolkata has 11 constituencies, North 24-Parganas has 33 and South 24-Parganas has 31. The state’s ruling Left Front is facing the stiffest challenge of its 34-year rule from a determined Trinamool Congress-Congress combine.
In Kasba constituency, a clash broke out between the supporters of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Trinamool Congress in which four activists were injured and a vehicle was damaged.
“One person was arrested,” said Murli Dhar, additional police superintendent.
Sixteen of the polling officers were removed in North 24 Parganas and another in central Kolkata’s Manicktala. In some booths, there was delay due to the malfunctioning of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
“At least 45 EVMs have been replaced, but the poll process was not disturbed,” Sarkar said.
Chief Minister Buddahdeb Bhattacharjee of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) and main opposition Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee also took part in the balloting that also saw Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and former Indian cricket skipper Sourav Ganguly cast their votes.
Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee was among the early birds. The areas being covered in the third phase include the industrial belt of the city and its suburbs and the populated areas of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest.
Mamata Banerjee accused the chief minister of trying to manipulate polls in his Jadavpur constituency.
“It is a matter of shame and I am ashamed to say that state Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has tried to manipulate polling in a few of the areas of his constituency. He is using the state police in the area by using his powers. We will inform the Election Commission about it,” Banerjee said.
Trinamool has high stakes in this round, as the areas going to polls are regarded as its citadel. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Trinamool and its ally Socialist Unity Centre of India-Communist nominees were ahead in 66 of the 75 assembly segments.
Other than Bhattacharjee, 11 state ministers whose fate will be decided Wednesday include Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta (Khardah), Housing Minister Gautam Deb (Dum Dum) and Transport Minister Ranjit Kundu (Naihati).
Leader of Opposition Partha Chatterjee (Behala-W), Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee (Behala-E) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) secretary general Amit Mitra (Khardah) are also in the fray.
A number of celebrities nominated by the Trinamool, including film stars Debashree Roy, Chiranjeet (Dipak) Chakroborty and theatre personality Bratya Basu are also trying their luck in the third phase.
Ruling Left Front major CPI-M is contesting in 61 constituencies, Forward Bloc (7), Communist Party of India (3), Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) (3), Trinamool (70) and Congress (5).
The Bharatiya Janata Party has put up candidates in all the 75 constituencies, and the Bahujan Samaj Party in 51.
Over 600 companies of security forces were deployed for the voting. Polls to the 294-member assembly, which started April 18, will end May 10.
The first and second phase of elections saw around 85 percent turnout. Votes will be counted May 13.

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