Seventy per cent votes were polled till 1 pm today in the sixth and last phase of Assembly elections in West Bengal in 14 Maoist-hit constituencies spread over three districts amid tight security arrangements.
"While the overall voting in the 14 seats was 70%, Midnapore and Bankura districts recorded an identical 71.70 %, whereas in Purulia it was 65.30 %," election officials said here. "So far the elections have been peaceful," the officials said.
Tight security arrangements have been made to ensure a free, fair and peaceful election in the 14 seats in the Maoist-affected Jangalmahal area spread over West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts. Besides 41 para-military companies permanently stationed in the three districts to tackle Maoists, 614 additional companies have been deployed for the polls. Helicopters were being used for aerial surveillance and to ensure co-ordination among ground forces.
Special arrangements were made to avert any attempt by Maoists to subvert the polling process, police said. The West Bengal Police has issued identity badges to all the paramilitary and state forces to negate any chance of Maoist militants carrying out attacks in the guise of police personnel, which they have done on some occasions earlier. Armed policemen were seen patrolling the constituencies on foot, using motorbikes and four-wheel vehicles. Security personnel were also seen in position on rooftops in and around polling booths across the 14 seats.
At least two surrendered Maoists -- Sobha Mandi at Salboni and Bibhuti Karak at Belpahari -- exercised their franchise, sources said. Even as the elections were by and large peaceful, the sound of an explosion was heard in the forests at Keria in Nayagram, adjoining Orissa. However, Additional Superintendent of Police, Jhargram, Mukhesh Kumar said it was possibly a dynamite blast in Orissa for construction of a canal, work for which was on.