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Assembly Polls come to a close

While 40% polling was recorded till 11.30 am in the two states, the first 3 hrs witnessed 20% voting in W Bengal.

india Updated: May 08, 2006 18:24 IST
Agencies

Heavy polling was underway on Monday in Tamil Nadu and the union territory of Pondicherry with several places, including this state capital, reporting 40 per cent turnout by 11.30 am itself.

In Tamil Nadu, voters had begun lining up before polling booths from 7 am to cast their ballots for the 234-member assembly, in which 2,586 candidates are trying their luck, as temperatures hovered around 37 degrees Celsius.

As many as 46 million voters in Tamil Nadu are voting under the careful gaze of secret cameras in 51,534 polling stations across this southern state with nearly 500,000 polling and security personnel also making sure that nothing goes wrong.

The sprawling state includes two dozen constituencies in remote areas like Cuddalore islands, where transportation is by boat, and in Villupuram and the Nilgiri hills where people have to trek five hours uphill to reach the polling stations.

As many as 67,207 electronic voting machines (EVMs) are in use.

Around 13,000 security personnel have been deployed in Chennai district, which has nearly 6,000 polling stations. Paramilitary personnel have been posted at 229 booths that have been identified as sensitive.

Around 100,000 policemen and 198 companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed in the entire state and 3,300 booths have been identified as sensitive.

DMK president M Karunanidhi, a candidate from the Chepauk constituency, voted in the morning at a school booth near his house in Gopalapuram in the Thousand Lights constituency where his son is a candidate, along with members of his family.

In a visibly ebullient mood, the DMK chief said his party and allies "will win as many as 200 seats in today's polls".

His archrival, AIADMK supremo and Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha, testing her fate from Andipatti, voted at the Stella Maris Girls College near her home in Poes Garden. She was circumspect and did not want to make any predictions.

Reports from Andipatti, 600 km from here, said the DMK candidate B Seeman smashed some EVMs at an all-women polling booth.

Amongst the other celebrity voters were union Finance Minister P Chidambaram in Karaikudi in Sivaganga district and actors Ajit and Shalin who stood for nearly two hours in a long queue at a Thiruvanmiyur school polling station.

Voting picked up after 9 am - after the inauspicious 'Rahukalam' from 7.30 am to 9 am was over.

Heavy voting was reported in districts like Madurai, Tiruchirapally, Salem and Ramanathapuram districts.

In the neighbouring union territory of Pondicherry, too, a six million strong electorate was in the process of electing 27 legislators among 199 in the fray. Three constituencies have already held elections in the first phase here on May 11.

Over 2,000 police personnel are overseeing elections in the former French colony and in the Karaikal regions in 660 polling stations, of which 98 have been identified as "sensitive".

There are three former chief ministers in the fray - while N Rangasamy is seeking a mandate for the third time, V Vaithialingam and RV Janakiraman are also contesting.

Brisk polling in West Bengal

A total of 70 per cent of the 81.76 lakh electorate voted for 49 Assembly seats spread over six districts in the fifth and last phase of the West Bengal assembly elections on Monday.

Darjeeling recorded 75 per cent polling, Coochbehar 70 per cent, Malda 70 per cent, Jalpaiguri 74 per cent, Utar Dinajpur 63 per cent and Dakshin Dinajpur 68 per cent, according to election department sources.

The phase would decide the fates of the 306 candidates, including seven Left Front ministers - Asoke Bhattacharya, Jogesh Barman, Biswanath Choudhury, Sailen Sarkar, Hafiz Alam Sairani, Srikumar Mukherjee and Dasharath Tirkey.

There were long queues of voters before in all the six districts at the scheduled end of polling at 5:00 pm.

Congress and Forward Bloc workers clashed in front of a booth in Jaigao in Goalpukhar constituency in North Dinajpur, where Information and Broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi's wife, Deepa, is the Congress candidate.

Para military forces posted there brought the situation under control, District Magistrate Manish Jain said.

In Jalpaiguri, Moloy Ghosh, an RSP polling agent, was arrested for entering a booth in Madarihat without proper appointment letter, Superintendent of Police, Rahul Srivastava said.

The Presiding officer was also removed, the District Magistrate said.

In Coochbehar, the presiding officer at a booth in Sadar Government High School fell ill during polling and had to be hospitalised. Polling however, continued.