The second phase of the West Bengal Assembly elections — in Murshidabad, Nadia and Birbhum districts — passed off peacefully on Saturday, except for minor disturbances. The voter turnout exceeded 85 per cent.

The fate of 293 candidates contesting from 50 constituencies is at stake in this phase, held in a region that includes areas where violent turf wars have raged involving the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Trinamool Congress.

The first phase of the elections in six northern districts of the State was held on April 18.

In this phase, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) contested in all 50 seats, the CPI(M) contested in 31, the Trinamool Congress in 29 and the Congress in 21 seats.

With 49 Independents contesting these elections — several dissident Congress leaders are contesting against official nominees of the Congress-Trinamool Congress alliance — it remains to be seen whether they are able to cause a split in the anti-Left vote and offer the Left Front an advantage.

Adhir Choudhury and Shankar Singh, district committee presidents of the Congress in Murshidabad and Nadia, have openly extended support to candidates who are contesting as Independents against Trinamool Congress nominees.

While Minister for Panchayat and Rural Development Anisur Rahman was pitched against Soumik Hossain, son of Congress MP Abdul Mannan Hossain, in Domkal in Murshidabad, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's son, Abhijit Mukherjee made his election debut from Nalhati in Birbhum, a constituency that has voted the Left in since 1967.

Rukbanur Rahman, brother of Rizwanur Rahman, the computer graphics teacher whose death in unnatural circumstances in 2007 created a stir, also contested from Chapra in Nadia.

“The polling in the second phase was conducted smoothly and peacefully with no major law and order incident,” Sunil Gupta, the State's Chief Electoral Officer, told journalists here.

Of the 11,532 polling stations across the three districts, a poll boycott was observed by the residents of 12 polling booths, he said.

“We had some information about the intention to boycott the polls in some areas and sent in officials to try and convince people to come out and vote. We are pleased that in two areas in Birbhum district, though a poll boycott was announced people eventually came out and voted,” Mr. Gupta said.

He added that in most places the boycott was called over local development issues.