WB records 85% turnout in final phase

WB records 85% turnout in final phase

The combined cover of central and state police personnel ensured that the final phase of polling in Bengal remained uneventful on Thursday at Cooch Behar and East Midnapore.

At Cooch Behar, home to erstwhile enclaves, thousands came out to exercise their right as Indian citizens for the first time. The voter turnout touched nearly 85% by the end of day’s polling at 6 pm.

One hundred-and-three-year-old Asgar Ali, arguably the oldest voter this polling season, cast his vote for the first time in 68 years, since India and Bangladesh broke the limbo of the enclaves and formally exchanged the ‘land-islands’ in July-August 2015. “It was Allah’s wish that I see this day. Now that I’ve been able to vote as a free Indian, I have no more regrets and I can die in peace,” the centenarian from Mashaldanga in Cooch Behar said. Asgar, who came along with his grandson Jainul Abedin, youngest son Billal Hossain and other family members, cast his vote after a central policeman on duty at the polling booth helped to carry him inside so that he could cast his vote.

While family members of Akkel Ali, yet another first-time voter from Mashaldanga, claimed, he too had crossed 100, the matter could not be settled as his voter card stated his age to be 84. Young and old alike, voters from all over the former enclaves, spanning 5 Assembly seats, queued outside their respective polling booths since early in the morning, turning the day into one of festivities.

Saddam Ali, a 24-year-old voter, lamented the passing of his 86-year-old grandfather a few days ago. “My grandfather was very excited after receiving his voter card. I wish he was here to witness this,” he said.

Thursday’s polling, which decided the fate of 170 candidates at 25 seats across the 2 districts, saw heavy polling from the beginning, with the poll percentage standing at slightly over 23 by 9 am, within the first 2 hours. The percentage steadily increased through the day, reaching 74 by 3 pm.

The poll percentage recorded at 5 pm stood at 84.24, with Cooch Behar showing nearly 83 and East Midnapore at around 85. More than 58 lakh voters sealed the fate of candidates across nearly 7,000 booths in the 2 districts, where ruling Trinamool Congress had been ahead in the last few elections.

The ruling party, however, ran into trouble at Cooch Behar after the election commission registered FIRs against Udayan Guha, Trinamool candidate from Dinhata and Rabindranath Ghosh, party district president and candidate from Natabari.

The EC had received complaints that both leaders were organising false votes, besides moving around in a vehicle bearing the party logo and misbehaving with polling officers. At Tamluk in East Midnapore, heavy-weight Trinamool candidate Nirbed Roy ran into controversy after allegedly distributing food packets bearing his photograph.

EC officials reported that the day remained without any incidents of violence, making the final round most peaceful of all the phases.

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