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70 per cent polling in West Bengal

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VETERAN VOTES: CPI(M) leader Jyoti Basu coming out of a polling booth after casting his vote, at Salt Lake in Kolkata on Thursday.
VETERAN VOTES: CPI(M) leader Jyoti Basu coming out of a polling booth after casting his vote, at Salt Lake in Kolkata on Thursday.

Special Correspondent

No untoward incident reported, except for minor skirmishes, in the third phase of polling

Exit polls predict comfortable majority for the Left FrontMore than 500 companies of Central forces were deployedEVMs in some booths were replaced

KOLKATA: More than 70 per cent of votes were cast in the third round of the five-phase Assembly elections on Thursday.

Polling was largely peaceful and, barring stray incidents, passed off smoothly in the 76 constituencies covering Kolkata and its adjoining districts of North and South 24 Parganas.

There was no report of any major untoward incident from any of these areas, State's Chief Electoral Officer Debasish Sen said.

Exit polls conducted by various television channels predicted a comfortable majority for the Left Front in the constituencies, which went to the polls on Thursday.

Among these channels, Star Ananda gave the Left Front 49, the Trinamool Congress-Bharatiya Janata Party combine 23, the Congress and others two each.

Among those whose political fortunes were decided on the day were Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Assembly Speaker H.A. Halim, a few Ministers, including Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta, and the former Mayor of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, Subrata Mukherjee.

Secretary of State Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and chairman of the Left Front committee Biman Bose expressed confidence that the Left Front's share of seats in constituencies where polling was held would increase.

Polling was peaceful thanks to the people and to the administrative measures taken, he said.

Long queues were seen outside the booths where jawans of the Central paramilitary forces kept vigil. More than 500 companies of Central forces were deployed.

Mr. Sen had to return to the polling booth in the Salt Lake area for a second time to cast his vote after the electronic voting machine that was found to be non-functional was replaced. The former Chief Minister, Jyoti Basu, cast his vote from the same booth which falls in the Belgachia East Assembly constituency where the Election Commission replaced its expenditure observer and an election observer following a complaint from the CPI(M) leadership.

Angry persons claiming that their names were not in the voters list surrounded Deputy Election Commissioner Anand Kumar, in another booth of the constituency.

They dispersed after an assurance that the matter would be looked into.

There were reports from some booths in other parts of the city of non-functioning voting machines, which were replaced shortly, Mr. Sen said. A person was arrested from the Alipore constituency for smashing an EVM.

Brief disruption

This incident led to a brief disruption in polling till the machine was replaced. Film actors Biplab Chatterjee and Tapash Pal are in the contest for the seat.

There was a flutter in the Haltu area of the Jadavpur constituency from where the Chief Minister is seeking re-election when a cracker exploded and many standing in the queue outside a booth thought it to be a bomb blast.

The queue broke up as voters ran helter-skelter but normality was restored shortly after and two persons were arrested.

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