West Bengal recorded a high voter turnout on Thursday when four of its 42 Lok Sabha seats went to polls in the first phase of elections in the state.
Till 8pm, nearly 81.57% of the six million voters exercised their franchise and no major incident of violence was reported. The Lok Sabha polls in Bengal will be held in five phases from April 17 to May 12.
Polling was held in Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and Darjeeling seats.
In 2009, these four constituencies in north Bengal recorded turnouts between 83.96% (Cooch Behar) and 75.99% (Alipurduar).
A day ago, the Election Commission (EC) had appointed a special observer to oversee the polling process in Bengal.
The EC and the ruling Trinamool Congress are at loggerheads after the poll watchdog transferred eight officials including superintendents of police and district magistrates accused of acting in favour of the ruling party.
According to Sudhir Kumar Mishra, the special observer, no major complaints of violence or malpractice were reported anywhere in the four constituencies till 3:30pm.
However, Forward Bloc, a part of the Left Front, complained of rigging by the ruling party in Cooch Behar.
"The ruling party resorted to passive rigging. They did not allow Left agents and voters to enter many booths. We demand re-polling," said Udayan Guha, Cooch Behar district secretary of the Forward Bloc.
In this constituency, Left candidate Dipak Kumar Roy is pitted against Trinamool's Renuka Sinha.
A closely fought contest is anticipated in the Darjeeling constituency among Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM)-backed BJP candidate SS Ahluwalia and Trinamool candidate and footballer Bhaichung Bhutia.
If the BJP wins, the separate Gorkhaland state demand may gain momentum. If the ruling Trinamool manages to snatch away the only seat the saffron party holds in the state, it will establish chief minister Mamata Banerjee's supremacy in the hills too.
GJM leader Bimal Gurung, however, said he was confident about the BJP's victory.
Bhutia also said he was confident about a win. Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) president Subhash Ghising, former patron of Gurung, is backing the Trinamool. Till 6pm, Ghising did not cast his vote despite being present in the hills.
Though the Trinamool has never won any of these seats, it is banking on its good performance in the 2011 assembly elections and is making an all-out effort to open its account in this area.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Darjeeling had gone to the BJP. Left Front candidates had emerged victorious in the other three.
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