West Bengal assembly elections: Amid reports of sporadic violence, close to 40 per cent of votes were cast till 11 AM for election to 56 West Bengal Assembly seats in the second phase of polls.
Overall, 39.19 per cent voters exercised their franchise during the first four hours in six districts of north Bengal and Birbhum of south Bengal.
In Alipurduar, 36.28 per cent votes were recorded, in Jalpaiguri 40.71 per cent, Darjeeling 36.06, North Dinajpur 38, South Dinajpur 40.08, Malda 38.30 per cent and Birbhum 44.88.
Controversial Trinamool Congress leader Anubrata Mandal, already under 24/7 surveillance of the Election Commission, stoked another controversy this time when he went to vote displaying the party symbol on his chest.
“I didn’t realise it. But the presiding officer could have stopped me from going like this,” Mandal, Birbhum district president of the party, said later on.
In Malda, a clash between CPI(M) and TMC supporters took place in front of booth no. 96 in Englishbazar assembly segment in which two persons, including the TMC polling agent were injured, police said.
Trouble began when the TMC polling agent protested against alleged booth jamming by CPI(M). The two sides clashed with lathis outside the booth with the central forces finding it difficult to control them, polling officials said.
TMC agent Anup Sarkar was injured and admitted to Malda Medical College and Hospital.
Polling was stalled for 45 minutes and later began as additional central forces were rushed to the area to control the situation.
TMC polling agent Asraful Hossain was beaten up at a booth in Chanchol constituency in Malda district by Chanchol ex-pradhan Maqbul Hossain of Congress, polling officials said.
As a result, polling was temporarily stalled.
Hossain has since been arrested, police said.
Earlier in the morning, a clash between BJP and TMC workers left eight persons injured in Dumrut village of Birbhum at around 6 AM before polling began, a EC report said.
Three persons were later on arrested by the police.
TMC candidate from Siliguri assembly constituency, Baichung Bhutia has complained of bogus votes being cast at Sriguru Vidayapith booth and a complaint has been registered with the EC.
Bhutia, former Indian football captain, is pitted against Siliguri Mayor and former CPI(M) minister Ashok Bhattacharya.
In Malda, a woman presiding officer in a model booth of Englishbazar assembly segment, Sushmita Saha was removed after the CPI(M) complained that the officer was allegedly working in favour of Trinamool Congress and allowing impersonation of votes.
EC has since replaced her by Munna Mukherjee as presiding officer in the all-women booth.
Tension also prevailed at Sian village under Nanoor constituency in Birbhum and at Kankartala village under Dubrajpur constituency with the Forward Bloc alleging that their agents were threatened by the Trinamool Congress.
In Jalpaiguri district, the CPI(M) has complained that their polling agent was not being allowed to enter a booth in Rajganj (SC) constituency by Trinamool Congress workers, a charge denied by the latter.
Over 1.2 crore electorate is eligible to decide the fate of 383 candidates, including 33 women, in six north Bengal districts of Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur, Malda and Birbhum in south Bengal.
In Birbhum district, a total of seven constituencies – Dubrajpur, Suri, Nalhati, Rampurhat, Sainthia, Hansan and Murarai have been classified as left-wing extremism affected and polling there will be held from 7 AM to 4 PM.
Elaborate multi-tier security arrangements have been made in these areas. In the remaining constituencies voting will conclude at 6 PM.
Polling was dealyed for some time in several places due to malfunctioning of EVMs.
Non-functioning of EVMs were reported from seven EVMs in Malda, four EVMs in Jalpaiguri, one in Darjeeling and three in Birbhum.
In Jalpaiguri Sadar constituency elections were temporarily stalled as a VVPAT machine did not function properly in the morning, polling officials said.
Voters were seen waiting patiently for the EVMs to be restored and polling to begin as the cloudy weather provided repite from the heat under which the state is reeling.