North Bengal surpassed Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam in voter turnout and, like the three states where assembly elections were held earlier this month, polling was largely peaceful. By nightfall, the Election Commission (EC) said that an unprecedented 84.11% of the nearly-one-crore electorate had cast their franchise in the six districts of Darjeeling, Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, South Dinajpur, North Dinajpur and Malda to elect 54 legislators.
The voting percentage this time clearly exceeded the 82.77% votes cast in the 2006 state elections.
Despite this high turnout, the polling process passed off smoothly, with no major hiccups or violence. Nearly 600 companies of paramilitary personnel were deployed to man the 12,131 booths, establishing a security network that prevented any major incident across the six districts.
The EC, too, had in place its own mechanism for monitoring the polls. There were webcams installed in 174 polling stations, which allowed officials to watch the proceedings from a remote location. Besides this, 1,099 digital cameras and 270 video cameras were installed to record the polling process.
“A tsunami of change struck North Bengal on Monday,” Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said after the voting was over. “Monday’s polls marked the beginning of the end of Left rule in West Bengal. A change of government is inevitable. The only speculation can be over the number of seats they (the Left) end up with. Our target is to confine them to 30,” said Leader of the Opposition in the outgoing assembly Partha Chatterjee.
Left Front chairman Biman Bose, too, was happy with the polling process and the high voter turnout. “Overall, the polls were healthy and peaceful, barring a few insignificant incidents. We congratulate the voters,” he said.
In fact, this has been one of the most peaceful polls in the state. “We got two complaints from the Trinamool about two presiding officers colluding with political parties and we removed them,” said Sunil Gupta, state’s chief electoral officer. But in the hills of Darjeeling, no other party except the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha could offer polling agents.
Monday’s polls will decide the fate of at least 11 ministers of the present government.