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Heavy polling in WB, Assam in 1st phase

1st phase of Assam state assembly elections

Kolkata/Guwahati : Brisk polling was recorded in the first phase of balloting in the Assembly elections in West Bengal and Assam with an estimated 70 and 67 per cent voters respectively exercising their franchise in the two states till 3:30 pm.

Polling is being conducted under heavy security and no violence or untoward incident has been reported from anywhere in the two states so far, official sources said.

In West Bengal, where Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress is making a determined bid for a second successive term, heavy voter turnout was recorded with an estimated 70 per cent of 40.09 lakh electors casting their ballots in 18 of the state’s 294 constituencies where polling is in progress till 3:30 pm. Most of these constituencies are in areas where Maoists earlier wielded considerable influence.

“There were some issues with EVMs in some booths which were immediately addressed and polling is going on smoothly. We got some other complaints also and they have been addressed,” Additional Chief Electoral Officer Dibyendu Sarkar told PTI.

Of the 18 seats, 13 are in Jangalmahal area earlier affected by Maoist violence where voting will end at 4 PM due to security considerations. In the remaining five seats of Purulia, Manbazar, Kashipur, Para and Raghunathpur voting will go on till 6 PM.

A key contestant in this phase is Tribal Affairs Minister Sukumar Hansda, who is trying his luck from Jhargram.

All major contenders to power- Trinamool, Left-Congress alliance and BJP- have fielded candidates in all 18 seats.

Mamata Banerjee, who has held sway over West Bengal politics since coming to power five years ago, if facing a challenge from foe-turned-friends– the CPI(M)-led Left Front-Congress combine, besides BJP, which is seeking to make inroads into the eastern state.

In Assam, where Congress under Tarun Gogoi is seeking a fourth straight term, 67 per cent of little over 95.11 lakh voters cast their ballots till 3:30 pm. There were no reports of violence in any of the 65 of the 126 constituencies where polling is being held in the first phase.

The 65 constituencies are spread across Upper Assam, the hill districts, the northern banks and the Barak Valley.

Prominent Congress candidates in the fray in the first phas include Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi from Titabor and Speaker of the outgoing Assembly Pranab Gogoi from Sibsagar.

BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal is trying his luck from Majuli, while party’s Lok Sabha member from Jorhat Kamakhya Prasad Tasa is crossing swords with Tarun Gogoi in Titabor.

BJP has tied up with former chief minister Prafulla Mahanta’s AGP and Bodo People’s Front in a bid to upset Congress’ applecart and form its government in the state where illegal Bangladeshi infiltration is a major electoral and social issue.

AIDUF of Dhubri MP Badruddin Ajmal, which has emerged as a force to reckon with in the state is the last several years, with support from Bangladeshi migrants, has also fielded candidates in 27 of the 65 constituencies. Congress is contesting all 65 seats in the first phase, BJP 54, its alliance partners AGP 11 and BPF three. CPI and CPI-M have put up candidates in 10 seats each and CPI-ML (L) in six.

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