Heavy security in Bengal as Maoist-hit areas go to polls

Amid a multi-layered security cover, more than 23 per cent of the electorate voters exercised their franchise till 9 am in 18 constituencies of West Bengal in the first phase of the assembly election held today.

The constituencies going to the polls today were mostly in leftist extremism-affected areas.

 Election Commission officials said the polling percentage was 23.4 per cent in the three districts of West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura during the first two hours.

There were no reports of violence in the districts and the polling process was going smoothly even in the Maoist-hit areas, they said.

Phase 1 of the election will decide the fate of 133 candidates, including 11 women, fighting from the 18 constituencies.

Out of them, 13 seats have been classified as LWE-affected areas where voting will end early at 4 pm due to security considerations.

In the remaining five constituencies of Purulia, Manbazar, Kashipur, Para and Raghunathpur voting will go on for two extra hours till 6 pm.

The total number of voters in the constituencies is 40,09,171, out of which 20,47,202 are men.

 The third gender category list shows only a handful of 16 voters.

There are 4,945 polling stations out of which 1,962 have been classified as critical ones where extra caution is being taken.

Voter Verifiable Audit Trails (VVAT) are made available in 562 polling stations.

Unlike in 2011 Assembly polls where the Trinamool Congress was its partner, Congress this time has forged an alliance with the Left parties.

All the three - Trinamool, the Left-Congress alliance and the Bharatiya Janata Party - have fielded candidates in all the 18 seats.

Gobordhan Bagdi is the only candidate fighting from two seats, Para and Raghunathpur, on a JMM ticket.

In all the Left-wing extremism affected polling stations, the EC has decided to deploy a minimum of one section of forces, which has around ten security personnel.

A minimum of three security layers including sector forces and a quick response team have been arranged.

The central forces are present in every polling booth and depending on the requirement the deployment of forces is being increased.

For aerial surveillance, two choppers have been conducting regular sorties to trace any undesirable activity.

Meanwhile, three faulty EVMs were replaced in Taldangra seat in Bankura district, election officials said. While the fault was detected in two EVMs before voting began, and that of another was spotted just after the polling started.