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Two voters die in third phase of Bengal elections

Wednesday April 27, 2011 02:31:42 PM, IANS

Kolkata: The third phase of assembly elections in West Bengal Wednesday saw a women voter dying of sun stroke and another of head injury even as polling proceeded with 50 percent votes cast till 1 p.m. in 75 constituencies of three districts, including this metropolis. Some sporadic incidents of violence were also reported.

"In South 24 Parganas district, a woman died of sun stroke in Kultali while waiting in the queue to exercise her democratic right, while 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.

A total of 14,419,669 people in Kolkata and the neighbouring districts of North and South 24-Parganas are eligible to elect their representatives from among 479 contestants - many of them stars from the field of politics -- including Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Kolkata has 11 constituencies, North 24-Parganas has 33 while South 24-Parganas 31.

"In first six hours since polling started at 7 a.m., 50 percent of the electorate have voted," said Additional Chief Electoral Officer N.K. Sahana.

In Kasba constituency, a clash broke out between the supporters of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and Trinamool Congress in which four activists were injured and a vehicle was damaged.

"One person was arrested," said Murli Dhar, additional police superintendent.

Joint Chief Electoral Officer Dibyendu Sarkar said a presiding officer in a polling station in central Kolkata's Maniktala constituency was replaced after allegations of false voting.

In some booths, polling process was delayed due to malfunctioning of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). "At least 45 EVMs have been replaced, but so far there are no reports of poll process being disturbed," Sarkar said.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and former Indian cricket skipper Sourav Ganguly cast their ballots in the city booths.

Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee was among the early birds. The areas being covered in the phase include the cosmopolitan industrial belt in the city and its suburbs and the populated areas of the world's largest mangrove forest Sundarbans.

Main opposition Trinamool Congress has high stakes in this round, with the area regarded as its citadel going by the last poll results. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Trinamool and its alliance partner Socialist Unity Centre of India-Communist nominees were ahead in 66 of the 75 assembly segments.

Other than Bhattacharjee, the fate of 11 other state ministers, including Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta, Housing Minister Gautam Deb, Transport Minister Ranjit Kundu, Leader of Opposition Partha Chatterjee, Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee, and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) secretary general Amit Mitra, will be decided in the polling at 17,792 booths.

A number of celebrities nominated by the Trinamool, including film stars Debashree Roy, Chiranjeet (Dipak) Chakroborty, theatre personality Bratya Basu, and singer Anup Ghoshal are also trying their luck in the third phase.

Ruling Left Front major Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) is contesting in 61 constituencies, Forward Bloc (7), Communist Party of India (3), Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) (3), the Trinamool (70) and the Congress (5).

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has put up candidates in all the 75 constituencies, and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in 51.

Over 600 companies of security forces have been deployed and more than 3,000 polling stations have been identified as super sensitive. Around 1.4 lakh people have been identified as vulnerable to threats from miscreants.

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.

The votes will be counted May 13.





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