'red fort' faces challenge as voting begins Monday
Bengal's 34-year-old "red fort" crumble in a combined Trinamool
Congress-Congress charge? Over 56 million voters will provide the
answer when the state ruled by the world's longest serving
communist-led government in »
People voted enthusiastically and peacefully in the first phase of
the West Bengal assembly elections Monday, with the 54
constituencies in six northern districts recording 10 to 20
percent polling in the first two hours.
Polling began at 7 a.m. In some places, people cast their vote in
candlelight due to power cuts and, in a few polling booths,
electronic voting machines (EVMs) malfunctioned only to be set
right soon. But polling proceeded smoothly.
From the hill station of Darjeeling to Malda, famed for its
mouthwatering mangoes, there was great enthusiasm among people who
lined up attired in their best to choose their representatives
from among 364 candidates.
According to sources in state Chief Electoral Officer's office,
around 15 percent polling was recorded in Malda and North Dinajpur
district, while about 10 percent voters exercised their franchise
in Jalpaiguri, South Dinajpur and Darjeeling districts till 9 a.m.
Twenty percent polling was reported from Cooch Behar district.
The ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Front
faces its biggest ever challenge in its 34 years of rule from the
Trinamool Congress-Congress combine.
The fate of 11 ministers of the Left Front will be decided during
the day by over 97 lakh voters in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch
Behar, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Malda districts.
"There were also complaints of electronic voting machines
malfunctioning in two-three booths of some districts. The machines
were replaced soon and the poll process is going smoothly. There
were no reports of any violence or disturbances," said Joint Chief
Electoral Officer Dibyendu Sarkar.
"Paramilitary troopers are posted in all 12,131 polling booths
across the six districts, of which 1,800 have been identified as
critical," said Sarkar.
About 550 companies of central paramilitary forces have been
spread out to the districts to face any eventuality in the next
four days, a senior police officer said.
Reports from Malda said polling was being conducted under
candlelight due to recurrent power cuts in a number of booths.
Power cuts were also reported at a few booths of Siliguri
constituency in Darjeeling district.
"But that has not hampered polling," Inspector General of Police
(North Bengal) Randhir Kumar told IANS over phone.
"There has been no untoward incident so far. Polling is proceeding
smoothly and peacefully," Kumar said.
Security has been beefed up in all the six districts.
The CPI-M is contesting 32 seats, the Communist Party of India
(CPI) two, Forward Bloc 10, Revolutionary Communist Party (RSP)
nine, Socialist Party one, Trinamool Congress 26, Congress 27,
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) one, and Bharatiya Janata Party
Also in the fray are the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) in three
constituencies, Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) three,
Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League three.
Of the 54 constituencies, 16 are reserved for Scheduled Castes and
eight for Scheduled Tribes.
Polling for the crucial assembly polls for 294 seats in the
eastern state will be held in six phases. The next phases will be
held April 23 (for 50 constituencies), April 27 (75), May 3 (63),
May 7 (38) and May 10 (14). The votes will be counted May 13.