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83 percent votes cast in Bengal fifth phase

Saturday May 07, 2011 08:13:23 PM, IANS

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Voting under way for fifth round of Bengal polls

Kolkata: An estimated 83 percent voting was recorded in three Maoist-affected districts as well as parts of Burdwan in the fifth and penultimate phase of the West Bengal assembly polls Saturday held amid tightened security, with helicopters keeping a watch over the forested areas.

Saturday's voting numbers continued the trend seen in the earlier four rounds, with voters forming long queues at polling booths in the Maoist-hit West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts as well as parts of Burdwan.

Among the political heavyweights in the fray Saturday were state Health Minister Surjya Kanta Mishra (Narayangarh of West Midnapore district) and state Congress president Manas Bhuniya (Sabong of West Midnapore).

Till 5 p.m., the scheduled time for polling to end, 83 percent of the total 74 lakh voters had exercised their franchise. The final number of ballots cast is expected to go up as many voters were still waiting in queues past the closing time who would be allowed to exercise their franchise, sources in the state Chief Electoral Officer's office said.

The polling in the 38 constituencies would decide the fate of 193 candidates in 9,425 booths in this phase. West Midnapore and Burdwan have 12 seats each, Purulia 5 and Bankura 9.

"Till 3 p.m., the voting percentage was 75 in West Midnapore and Bankura, 72 in Purulia. In Burdwan, the figure was 74 percent," said N.K. Sahana, additional chief electoral officer.

Two helicopters carried out aerial surveillance in the forested areas and remote corners of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia, while around 550-600 companies of central paramilitary forces were deployed on ground.

The polls in Saturday's phase do not include the 14 constituencies considered to be the hotbed of Maoist activities, which will go to polls in the final phase May 10.

Nine preventive arrests were made in Burdwan, while 44 electronic voting machines had to be replaced as they malfunctioned.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) is contesting 32 seats, the Communist Party of India (CPI) one, Forward Bloc three, the Trinamool Congress 33, the Congress five and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in all the 38.

Polls for the 294-member assembly started April 18 and will end May 10. Polling has been completed in 242 seats in the first four phases. The counting will take place May 13.







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(Photo: Debatosh Sengupta)



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