Rejecting the Maoist call for boycott, more than 85 per cent of the electorate voted amid high security in the 14 constituencies in the Naxal-affected Bankura, Purulia and Paschim Medinipur districts in the sixth and final phase of the West Bengal Assembly elections on Tuesday.
“We are happy that the sixth phase concluded without any major incident. Our concern now is to ensure that the polling and security personnel return safely to their headquarters,” Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta told journalists here.
The turnout was significantly higher than 76.49 per cent recorded in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. In the 2006 Assembly elections, 82.53 per cent had exercised their franchise. On Tuesday, people boycotted polling in only one booth at Bagmundi in Purulia district. Mr. Gupta said the locals stayed away over an issue of building a bridge nearby. He admitted that Election Commission officials were anxious about the final phase. But the elections were peaceful; no major incidents of violence, suspicious activity or disruption by Maoists were reported.
An immediate investigation of reports of an explosion heard at Gopiballabpur in Paschim Medinipur district revealed that the place was far removed from the polling station there, and the sound probably came from the nearby Air Force base in Kalaikunda, he said.
As for the safe return of the polling personnel, Mr. Gupta said elaborate arrangements had been made. “We have prepared a movement plan and they will be escorted by a contingent of security forces.” There were no reports of irregularities, but six presiding officers and 11 polling officers were replaced as they fell ill due to excessive heat. In all, 26 electronic voting machines were replaced, most of them during a mock polling itself.