Kolkata, May 10: The decisive battle in West Bengal to decide whether the Left Front will extend its 34-year-old rule or the Trinamool-Congress alliance grab power was finally sealed in the EVMs today, as the state recorded an overall turnout of around 83 per cent during the Assembly polls.
The sixth and last phase of elections, which recorded 84.8 per cent turnout during the day in 14 seats in the three Maoist-hit 'Junglemahal' districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia ended peacefully, as did the other five phases preceding it.
Counting will be held on May 13.
"The polls were held absolutely peaceful and totally incident free," Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi told reporters in Delhi at the end of polling today.
Asked whether the poll percentage in the state this time was the highest ever, he said it could be termed "maximum" compared to the 2006 Assembly and 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
Never before, since 1977, has an Assembly election been so keenly contested since the results from the 2008 panchayat elections, Lok Sabha elections the following year and others in the state, have seen the Left Front facing repeated electoral reverses.
Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, who coined the 'Ma, Mati, Manush' slogan after tasting success in her movement against "forcible land acquisition", was the key mover and shaker for her party during the election campaigns.
Home Minister P Chidamabaram's caustic comments on law and order in the state gave an agrressive note to the wrap-up of the high profile campaign for the Congress-Trinamool alliance by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi and Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.
For the Left Front, campaigners were CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat and politburo members Brinda Karat and Sitaram Yechuri.
As far as the BJP were concerned, its president Nitin Gadkari and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi hit the campaign trail.
The elections though, were not without its share of controversies, with CPI(M) leader and Housing Minister Goutam Deb alleging that Trinamool had used black money to fund its election campaign.
In reply, the Trinamool Congress filed criminal and civilian defamation suits.
There was 83.75 per cent polling in 54 seats in the first phase on April 18-- 85.32 per cent in 56 seats in the second phase on April 23-- 78.3 per cent in 75 seats in the third phase on April 27-- 84.8 per cent in 63 seats in the fourth phase on May 3-- 83 per cent in 38 seats in the fifth phase on May 7 and 84.8 per cent in 14 seats in the sixth and final phase today.
Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi has congratulated the people of West Bengal, political parties and all those involved in the polling process for ensuring free, fair and peaceful elections.
"Yes he (Quraishi) called me up and congratulated everybody for ensuring a free, fare and peaceful election," State Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta said.
"The CEC congratulated the people of the state for coming in large numbers to exercise their franchise, the political parties for showing restraint and all the poll workers for immense labour and dedication and all these contributed significantly for conducting a peaceful election," he said.
Asked whether he felt relieved after the completion of the sixth and final phase of the Assembly elections, Gupta said, "I am relaxed to some extent but not fully because all the polling personnel involved in conducting the election in the sixth phase have not reached their destinations."
Apart from minor incidents there has not been any major law and order problem or disruption during the polls and the people have come out in numbers, EC sources said. PTI