New Delhi: Thirty Assembly constituencies in West Bengal and 47 Assembly constituencies in Assam on Saturday went to polls during the first phase of polling in the two states. While West Bengal recorded an estimated 79.79 per cent voter turnout till 6.30 pm, nearly 72.14 per cent voter turnout was recorded in Assam, with the polling largely peaceful in both states. West Bengal reported some stray incidents of violence.
In West Bengal, nearly 74 lakh electorate across 10,288 polling stations cast their votes. In Assam a total of 81 lakh electorates registered across 11,537 polling stations cast their votes. Long queues were seen outside polling booths with voters and election officials adhering to Covid-19 protocols.
In West Bengal, where ruling TMC and the BJP have been engaged in one of the fiercest electoral battles, the latter has deployed its senior leadership, including Union ministers, in the poll battle to oust the Mamata Banerjee-led party. In Assam, the BJP has been desperately trying to retain power as the Congress-led Opposition is giving it a tough challenge.
In Assam, chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal exercised his franchise around 11 am at Sahitya Sabha Bhavan, a model polling station, in his home town Dibrugarh in upper Assam. As many as 264 candidates were in the fray in the Phase-I polls, along with 23 women candidates and 78 Independents.
The ruling BJP is contesting from 39 seats and its ally AGP on 10, with friendly fights in Lakhimpur and Naharkatiya Assembly seats. From the Opposition camp, Congress is contesting 43, while its partners in the Grand Alliance — AIUDF, CPI(ML-L), RJD and Anchalik Gana Morcha (contesting as Independent) — are contesting one seat each.
In West Bengal, among the five districts that went to polls in the first phase, East Medinipur recorded the highest voter turnout of 82.42 per cent till the end of voting time. Purulia recorded the lowest voter turnout of 77.13 per cent. Jhargram recorded 80.55 per cent, Paschim Medinipur 80.16 per cent and Bankura 80.03 per cent voter turnouts.
While Assam will witness three-phase polls, West Bengal will have eight-phase elections. The counting of votes will take place on May 2.
According to a press statement by the Election Commission, the first phase of polling in both states was conducted “peacefully and successfully” across 21,825 polling stations spread over 77 Assembly constituencies. The EC said it has “laid great emphasis on ensuring a transparent and vigilant mechanism for inducement and intimidation free elections.”
The Trinamool Congress, eyeing re-election in West Bengal for the third consecutive term, alleged “discrepancy” in poll turnout and malfunctioning of EVMs as voting began for 30 of the 294 Assembly seats on Saturday morning. A letter was written by MP Derek O'Brien to the Election Commission and a party delegation met the poll panel in the afternoon, ANI reported.
In a tweet, TMC shared voting turnout figures from East Medinipur district and asked, "What is happening @ECISVEEP?! Could you explain how voting percentage drastically reduced to half within a gap of just 5 minutes?! Shocking! @CEOWestBengal, please look into this urgently!"
In another post, the party talked about claims that people were not able to vote for Trinamool. "Shocking claim by voters which must be immediately looked into by @ECISVEEP and @CEOWestBengal. Many voters in Kanthi Dakshin Assembly seat allege that they voted for TMC but VVPAT showed them the BJP symbol. THIS IS SERIOUS! THIS IS UNPARDONABLE!"
The BJP, which is trying to claim victory in the state for the first time, also raised some poll-related concerns.