Nearly 50 percent of the electorate had voted by noon in 25 constituencies in Cooch Behar and East Midnapore districts in the sixth and final phase of the West Bengal assembly polls on Thursday.
The balloting began at 7 a.m. in the nine constituencies of Cooch Behar and 16 in East Midnapore.
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 its polling agent’s house was broken into and vandalised by Trinamool Congress supporters.
Five Trinamool workers were reportedly detained in the assembly for 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 – 18 females – in this phase.
The Election Commission is using 7,790 electronic voting machines (EVM) and 621 voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT).
In East Midnapore, the main focus is on Nandigram, where a peasants agitation in 2006-07 against the erstwhile 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 of the 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 from four constituencies, with the alliance extending support to three independent candidates.
The Trinamool and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are fighting all the seats.
The star candidates include Trinamool’s heavyweight leader and MP Suvendu Adhikari (Nandigram), who was purportedly seen in the Narada News sting operation video taking wads of currency notes in return for favours to a fictitious company.
Among other major candidates are Minister Sudarshan Ghosh Dastidar (Mahisadal), Udayan Guha (Dinhata) — both from Trinamool — and Paresh Chandra Adhikary (Mekhliganj) of the Forward Bloc.
The votes will be counted on May 19.