West Bengal polls: Fearing violence later the day, early voters assemble before polling stations in large numbers

 West Bengal polls: Fearing violence later the day, early voters assemble before polling stations in large numbers

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In some booths, the voters were provided masks, while santisers were made available at all the locations

MIDNAPORE/JHARGRAM/KANTHI

Polling began at 7 am on Saturday for the 30 seats in the first phase of the assembly elections in West Bengal amid tight security, officials said. More than 73 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 191 candidates in these seats, most of which are located in the once-Naxal-affected Jungle Mahal region.

The elections are being held following COVID-19 guidelines in all nine seats in Purulia, four in Bankura, four in Jhargram and six in Paschim Medinipur, besides the seven seats in high-stakes Purba Medinipur — the home turf of BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari. The elections, which will continue till 6 pm, are being held amid tight security with the Election Commission deploying around 730 companies of central forces, guarding 10,288 polling booths housed in 7,061 premises, officials said.

Each company of the central forces consists of 100 personnel, they said. Besides, 22,092 state police personnel have also been deployed at strategic locations, they added. Long queues were seen outside many booths even before polling began with people stepping out early to avoid the sweltering heat, besides the uncertainty of being able to cast their votes in case of violence later in the day.

Most of the voters and political party workers were seen without masks amid a resurgent coronavirus. In some booths, the voters were provided masks, while santisers were made available at all the locations. The Trinamool Congress is contesting 29 of the 30 seats, while supporting an Independent in the Joypur assembly segment in Purulia as the nomination of its official candidate Ujjwal Kumar was rejected by the EC due to a discrepancy.

The BJP is also contesting 29 seats and backing ally AJSU Party of Jharkhand in Baghmundi. The Left-Congress-ISF alliance has put up candidates in all 30 seats, even as there are “friendly fights” in some. Of these 30 seats, 27 were won by the TMC in the 2016 assembly elections, the Congress bagged two and RSP one. However, the equations changed in 2019 with BJP making massive inroads in the tribal-dominated Jungle Mahal region, winning all five Lok Sabha constituencies — Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, Medinipur and Bishnupur.

Agencies

 

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