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west bengal, assam assembly polls
(File image)

The first phase of crucial assembly polls in West Bengal and Assam began on Monday
with Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee facing a tough fight from Left-Congress combine and Tarun Gogoi of Congress striving hard to retain power in the key northeastern state.

Around 45 percent turnout was recorded in the first four hours of polling on Monday in 18 constituencies in the first phase of the West Bengal assembly elections.

At 4 PM: 75% voters turnout recorded for phase 1 of West Bengal polls.

The first four hours of polling in 18 constituencies of West Bengal, many of which are in
Left-wing extremism-hit areas, witnessed a heavy turnout as more than 45 per cent people cast their votes till 11 AM in the first of the six-phase Assembly elections.

Polling began in 18 constituencies spread across three western districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia amid tight security.

The 18 poll-going constituencies include — nine in Purulia, three in Bankura and six in West Midnapore.

“A little over 23 percent turnout has been recorded in the first two hours. There are no reports of violence,” said an election commission official.

“An average of 24 percent polling was reported in West Midnapore, 22.5 percent in Bankura and 23.4 percent in Purulia,” said the official, adding that a few complaints of electronic voting machine malfunctioning have been received.

In 13 Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected constituencies, polling will end two hours early at 4.00 p.m.

As many as 40,09,171 electors including 16 transgender voters will exercise their franchise in the first stage which has 133 candidates in the fray.

The staggered six-phase elections for 294 assembly seats are spread over seven polling dates and will continue till May 5.

Among major candidates in the fray are state minister Sukumar Hansda of All India Trinamool Congress from Jhargram constituency and Communist Part of India-Marxist Pulin Bihari Baske contesting from Gopiballavpur.

The other six polling dates are April 11, 17, 21, 25, 30 and May 5.

The ruling Trinamool Congress has been highlighting how peace has returned in the Maoist-hotbed Junglemahal area.

The last 2011 assembly polls, which ended the 34-year-long rule of the Left, had Trinamool and Congress on the same side. The Congress, which broke its alliance later on, has forged alliance with the Left.

The Left-Congress alliance has been a subject of mockery for both the BJP and the Trinamool.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has called this alliance an “unholy” one while Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who attended an election rally in Kharagpur town, mocking it, saying “dosti
(friendship) in Bengal and kushti (wrestling) in Kerala”.

The strength of the West Bengal assembly is 294.


ASSAM:

More than 35 per cent of the 95,11,732 voters, including Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi,
exercised their franchise amidst tight security till midday during the first phase of voting on Monday to decide the fate of 539 contestants in 65 constituencies in the first phase of Assembly election held on Monday amid tight security.

At 3 PM, 66.95% voters turnout recorded for phase 1 of Assam assembly polls.

Voters, particularly women and first timers, were seen queuing at polling booths from 5 AM to participate in the democratic process where the ruling Congress, the BJP-AGP-BPF alliance and the AIUDF are locked in a keen battle.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, along with his wife Dolly Gogoi, son and MP Gaurav Gogoi and brother Deep Gogoi, cast his ballot at the polling station in Debicharan Baruah Girls High School in Jorhat.

There were reports of malfunctioning of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in some polling centres due to which voting was affected for some time but they were swifty replaced, election office said.

At least 20 per cent voters exercised their franchise in the first two hours, it said.

Altogether 12,190 polling stations been set up in the 65 constituencies for the 95,11,732 voters, including 45,95,712 women, manned by over 48,000 polling personnel.

Security is at its highest in the state with the Indo-Bangla border along Barak Valley’s Karimganj district sealed and 535 companies of security forces of central and state police deployed in the 65 constituencies spread across Upper Assam, two hill districts, northern bank and Barak Valley.

For today’s first phase of polling Congress is contesting in all the 65 constituencies, BJP in 54 and its alliance partners–AGP in 11 and BPF in three, AIUDF in 27, CPI and CPM in ten each with CPI(ML)(L) in six along with 60 others of unrecognised parties and 13 Independents.

Prominent Congress contestants are Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Assembly Speaker Pranab Gogoi, former Union Minister and prominent tea tribe leader Paban Singh Ghatowar, Assam Ministers Gautam Roy, Sarat Barkotoky, Ajanta Neog, Khorsingh Engti, Siddeque Ahmed, Bismita Gogoi, Sumitra Patir and Girindra Malik, among others.

The BJP’s star candidates are Union minister and party’s Chief Minister candidate Sarbananda Sonowal, Jorhat MP Kamakhya Prasad Tasa, MLAs Prashanta Phukan, Dilip Paul, Hiten Goswami, Padma Hazarika and Naba Doley, besides former ULFA militant Kushal Duwari.

AGP’s prominent nominees are its working president Atul Bora and sitting MLAs Keshab Mahanta and Utpal Dutta along with former minister Pradip Hazarika.

The remaining 61 constituencies will go to polls on April 11 in the second phase.