One-third voters exercise rights in Bengal by-polls

Kolkata, Nov 19 (IANS) Around one-third of the voters exercised their rights in the first four hours on the by-polls for two Lok Sabha constituencies and one assembly seat in West Bengal on Saturday.

“The polling percentage till 11 a.m., in the Lok Sabha constituencies of Cooch Behar and Tamluk was 33.04 and 35.41 respectively. The figure for Monteshwar assembly seat was 32.10 per cent,” said an Election Commission official.

Polling was peaceful so far, said the official.

Altogether, 39 companies of CRPF personnel have been deployed along with large number of state police personnel to ensure fool proof security.

However, longer queues could be observed in front of the ATM outlets than at the polling stations in all three constituencies.

“I have the ATM card in one pocket and the voter card in the other but I feel withdrawing money is more important now than casting my vote,” said a man standing in an ATM queue at Cooch Behar.

The elections are being held under the shadow of the Central government’s demonetisation move to unearth black money and counterfeit coins, that has caused turmoil across the nation.

Since the November 8 announcement to ban 500 and 1,000 rupees currency notes by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, people have been forced to stand in long queues at banks and ATMs for the elusive cash. Trade and business have also been hit.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leaders have alleged their polling agents were beaten up and stopped from entering the stations by the Trinamool supporters at several places in Tamluk constituency including Haldia, Chaitanyapur and Nandigram.

The Trinamool has denied the accusations.

“All are voting for Trinamool this time around. Who would water a dead tree like CPI-M,” said state transport minister Subhendu Adhikari, whose brother Dibyendu Adhikari is the candidate in Tamluk constituency.

In Manteshwar constituency, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders alleged the ruling party Trinamool Congress was intimidating their supporters to keep them away from the vote booths.

An electorate of 3,524,977, including 1,689,735 women and 38 from the third gender, are eligible to choose their representatives from among 23 candidates vying for honours in Cooch Behar (Reserved-Scheduled Castes) and Tamluk parliamentary constituencies and Monteshwar assembly seat.

Cooch Behar has the maximum number of contestants (10), followed by Tamluk (sevem) and Monteshwar (six).

The state’s principal political parties — the ruling Trinamool Congress, the Congress, the Left Front and the BJP — are in fray for all three seats.

The Cooch Behar parliamentary constituency fell vacant after the death of Trinamool’s Renuka Sinha, while Tamluk has gone to the hustings as the incumbent MP Suvendu Adhikari became a minister in Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Cabinet.

Trinamool lawmaker Sajal Panja’s death has caused the Monteshwar assembly by-poll.

The vote count is on Tuesday.