Barring stray incidents, polling peaceful; thunderstorm delays voting in Bardhaman and Purulia

The fifth phase of the West Bengal Assembly elections was peaceful on Saturday but for a few sporadic incidents in which supporters of rival groups were involved in scuffles. Polling, however, was not disrupted.

The average turnout in the 38 Assembly constituencies that are spread over parts of Bardhaman, Purulia, Bankura and Paschim Medinipur districts was 83.7 per cent (till 9 p.m.).

The fate of 193 candidates, including Health Minister Suryakanta Mishra and Pradesh Congress Committee president Manas Bhunia, was decided by an electorate of over 74 lakh.

The Election Commission had made strict security arrangements in all 9,425 polling booths, by deploying Central paramilitary forces in individual booths as well as pressing into service two helicopters for aerial-surveillance.

“The fifth phase elections were by and large peaceful with no report of any major law and order disruption. Till 6 p.m., the average percentage of voter turnout in the 38 constituencies was more than in the 2006 Assembly elections recorded at 80.13 per cent and we expect the percentage to rise further as long queues were seen outside a large number of booths even at 6 p.m.,” Sunil Gupta, the Chief Electoral Officer, said.

A thunderstorm that hit some areas of Bardhaman and Purulia districts from 3.30 p.m. to 5 p.m. delayed the pace of voting in several booths.

Moreover, roads were blocked at places by uprooted trees .

Mr. Gupta said a scuffle broke out between supporters of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Trinamool Congress outside a booth in the Debra constituency in which a CPI(M) supporter was wounded. “A large number of security personnel rushed to the spot immediately after the trouble broke out and brought the situation under control. Ten persons were arrested.”

There were also reports of unauthorised gatherings in front of a few booths in the Keshpur constituency, arrest of several persons for carrying dummy electronic voting machines in different places as well as three journalists being assaulted by CPI(M) supporters in the Galsi constituency.

“The police made 109 preventive arrests during the day. Thorough investigation of a complaint of bullets being fired near a booth in the Debra constituency turned out to be false,” Mr. Gupta said.

Due to technical fault of EVM, voting process had to be stopped at a booth under Khandaghosh constituency. A total of 62 EVMs were replaced during the day.