Kolkata: Nearly 62 percent of the electorate voted on Thursday in the first six hours in 25 constituencies in Cooch Behar and East Midnapore districts during the sixth and final phase of the West Bengal assembly polls. The balloting began at 7 a.m. in nine constituencies of Cooch Behar and 16 in East Midnapore. The overall turnout at 1 p.m. was 61.88 percent, with East Midnapore recording 63.61 percent votes and Cooch Behar 58.81 percent, an Election Commission official said.
In the 51 erstwhile enclaves in Cooch Behar, over 9,000 enthusiastic voters, including three centenarians, voted for the first time since the country s Independence. It is a historic day for these first-time voters. It marks another leap in their absorption into India after nearly seven decades of stateless existence. The enclaves were swapped with Bangladesh after the Land Boundary Agreement was implemented last year.
Thousands turned up in East Midnapore s over 4,000 disabled voter-friendly booths, aided by the Election Commission s special initiatives. In East Midnapore s Moyna seat, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) alleged that its polling agent s house was broken into and vandalised by Trinamool Congress supporters. The Trinamool, in turn, accused the Congress of overwhelming several booths in Moyna constituency in the district.
Five Trinamool workers were reportedly detained in the assembly segment on the charge of intimidating voters. In Nandigram, the opposition accused the Trinamool of intimidating and threatening their agents. Over 58 lakh (58,04,019) voters across 6,774 polling stations, including nine auxiliary booths, are eligible to decide the fate of 170 candidates, including 18 women, in this phase.
The Election Commission is using 7,790 electronic voting machines and 621 voter verified paper audit trail. In East Midnapore, the main focus is on Nandigram, where a peasants agitation in 2006-07 against the then Left Front government s bid to acquire farmland for a chemical hub and a special economic zone led to police firing that resulted in 14 deaths. The peasants protest played a pivotal role in the ouster of the Left Front after 34 years in office. In 2011, the Trinamool Congress, then in alliance with the Congress, won 20 seats.
The Congress got one, while Left Front partner Forward Bloc triumphed in four seats. This time, the Left Front and the Congress have teamed up against the Trinamool. While the Left Front is in the fray in 18 seats, the Congress is contesting four constituencies. The alliance has extended support to three Independent candidates. The Trinamool and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are contesting all the 25 seats.
The star candidates include Trinamool s heavyweight leader and MP Suvendu Adhikari (Nandigram), who allegedly was caught on Narada News sting operation video taking wads of currency notes in return for favours to a fictitious company. Other major candidates include minister Sudarshan Ghosh Dastidar (Mahisadal), Udayan Guha (Dinhata) -- both from the Trinamool -- and Paresh Chandra Adhikary (Mekhliganj) of the Forward Bloc. The votes will be counted on May 19.