Kolkata, Apr 18: Polling in the first phase of assembly elections covering six northern districts of West Bengal today saw a high turnout of 74.27 per cent with no major untoward incident reported.
State Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta said the turnout was 74.27 per cent.
Voting was held in 54 constituencies with 364 candidates in the fray including 11 ministers among whom are Ashok Bhattacharya, Kshiti Goswami, Biswanath Chowdhury, Kironmoy Nanda, Narayan Biswas and Srikumar Mukherjee. There are also 38 women.
Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi told reporters in Delhi that turnout was “very encouraging”. The turnout in the last Assembly elections in these districts in 2006 was 82.91 per cent, he said. South Dinajpur district recorded the highest polling percentage of 78.17, followed by Cooch Behar (77.10), Malda (75.10), Jalpaiguri (72.57), North Dinajpur (72.43) and Darjeeling (71).
Gupta said voters in six booths, including four in Malda district, boycotted the polls demanding better roads, electricity and PMGSY schemes and 10 people were arrested for trying to influence voters.
He said two presiding officers were replaced at Harirampur and Gangarampur assembly constituency booths after complaints from Trinamool Congress that they were talking to political party leaders.
Security personnel baton charged photo journalists when they followed minister Sailen Sarkar inside a booth at the Malda Women's College ignoring warnings, officials said. According to Zutshi, 15,000 EVMs were used in the polling out of which 92 had to be replaced. A total of 57,048 polling personnel were manning the booths and 1,094 digital cameras were used. The officer said that there is no report of any incident of paid news till now.
Zutshi said that the EC has till now seized Rs 91 lakh in a dozen different incidents and the flying squads of the IT department have seized Rs 5.71 crore.
Commenting on today's poll turnout, CPI-M Politburo member Sitaram Yechury told PTI in New Delhi that it was “very favourable for the Left Front”.
“The fact that the turnout was lower than the last occasion, clearly shows that there is absolutely no enthusiasm for a so-called ‘parivartan'(change). No such enthusiasm is visible,” he said, adding that the last elections had seen a turnout of 85-86 per cent. PTI