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Over 81% vote in Bengal, opposition seeks repoll after 'massive rigging'

Wednesday, 30 April 2014 - 10:14pm IST | Agency: IANS

Over 81 percent of the 1.39 crore electors Wednesday cast their ballot in nine Lok Sabha constituencies of West Bengal, with the Election Commission calling the exercise "free and fair". However, the opposition parties alleged massive booth capturing by the ruling Trinamool Congress and sought repoll in a large number of polling stations.

State chief electoral officer Sunil Gupta said around 81.35 percent polling was recorded at the end of the scheduled polling time spread over four districts - Howrah, Hooghly, Birbhum and Burdwan. Birbum constituency saw the highest turnout at 84.24 percent. The polling was lowest (71.87 percent) at Howrah.

"The figure may go up by 1-2 percent as there were still queues before the booths," he said, claiming the voting was "fair, free and peaceful".

There were no reports of any violence, booth capturing, obstruction to voters or any other unlawful activity disrupting the poll process, he said.

Two polling officials were removed - one for illegally allowing a person to enter the voting compartment and cast the vote of another person at Arambagh in Hooghly district and another for the slow pace of voting in Mangalkote of Burdwan district, he said.

A by-poll was also held for the Galsi assembly seat in Burdwan district.

Election Commission's special observer for the state Sudhir Kumar Rakesh noted that he could not say if polling was peaceful but the elections were free and fair like the earlier phases.

Communist Party of India-Marxist politburo member Surjya Kanta Mishra however claimed that the elections were "a total farce" in Arambagh constituency "where none of the rules of law and civil behaviour were followed".

"There was so much irregularity in Arambag that even the conditions which have to be fulfilled for seeking repoll cannot be done in most of the booths where the Trinamool ran amok," he alleged.

"There was also rampant booth capturing in the other constituencies. We demand repoll in 826 polling stations in these eight seats," said Mishra, who alleged the Election Commission has failed in carrying out its responsibilities, and the central forces were either "inadequate" or not properly deployed.

However, he said that despite the large-scale malpractices, the Left Front will win the maximum number of seats in this phase.

In Delhi, Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi said the poll panel will scrutinise the report of election observers and the video recordings related to allegations of booth capturing.

"If the reports are found to be true, we may go for repoll in those booths," he said.

State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury said the Trinamool activists "looted the votes".

"We had high hopes that the Election Commission would ensure the proper environment for the polls. But in this phase, they have miserably failed," he said.

Congress candidate from Sreerampore Abdul Mannan sat on a demonstration, alleging malpractices by the Trinamool.

In this phase, the Bharatiya Janata Party has fielded celebrities like Bollywood music composer Bappi Lahiri (Sreerampore), Bengali actor George Baker (Howrah) and eminent journalist Chandan Mitra (Hooghly).

Film actor and sitting Trinamool MP Satabdi Roy is seeking re-election from Birbhum, while in Howrah, the party has nominated former India football captain Prasun Banerjee.

In 2009, Trinamool had won five, and the Left Front spearheaded by CPI-M won four of the seats which vote Wednesday.

Polling has now been completed in 10 of the total 42 Lok Sabha constituencies.

The final two phases of polling in the state will take place May 7 (six seats) and May 12 (17 constituencies). The results will be declared May 16.

Over 1.39 crore voters were eligible to cast their ballot at 17,332 polling stations to choose their representatives from among 87 candidates in the fray for the Lok Sabha seats, and four in the Galsi assembly constituency.

The Trinamool, the CPI-M, the Congress and the BJP were contesting all the nine parliamentary seats.

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