The election in the enclaves in Cooch Behar turned into a festival on Thursday for 9,776 electorates exercising their franchise for the first time in their life. It may be mentioned that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee played a major role in solving the long standing problem between India and Bangladesh and facilitated the difficult task of exchange of enclaves.
The elaborate arrangements by the Election Commission to ensure free and fair election for the first time voters did not go to waste as voters of all ages lined up outside all the 38 polling stations since morning to cast their votes.
Everyone’s eyes were on the 103-year-old, Asgar Ali, who voted for the first time. As he was ill, his son and grandson helped him reach the polling station at Mansab Saoraguri. Ali was too old to speak out loud about how he felt after exercising his franchise. He only raised his inked finger; after a few minutes tears rolled down his eyes. His son said that he had waited years for this day.
Residents of the 51 enclaves, that are part of the Indian territory, were aware about elections taking place in the country, but had no right to cast their votes. Despite being given assurances of providing citizenship in the past decades, the residents only faced heartbreak after each subsequent election. The 51 enclaves in Sitalkuchi, Mekhliganj, Siati, Tufanganj, Dinhata and Natabari – with a total population of 15,786 – finally came under the Indian territory on July 31, 2015.
While polls in other North Bengal districts were held in the second phase on April 17, election in Cooch Behar was scheduled in the final phase as the enrolment process of voters in the enclaves was ongoing.
Several women completed their household work as early as possible and exercised their franchise.
Families, with four to five members, were seen going for casting their votes together as if they were going to attend some festival. Even people from same localities went to exercise their right at the same time. The enthusiasm among youngsters was also remarkable and they helped the elderly to reach the polling stations without any inconvenience. The residents were also moved by the role played by election officials, as well as workers and leaders of the political parties. Election officials
had set up camps to make first time voters aware of the process of giving vote in an electronic voting machine (EVM). Three dummy EVMs were used to familiarise them with the process. Some people had enquired if there was any possibility of getting electric shock while voting in the EVMs!
Casting out all apprehensions, several enclave residents on Thursday cast their votes. The most interesting part of Thursday’s election was that candidates of each and every political party requested the residents to go to polling stations to cast their votes. Efforts of each and everyone resulted in a high polling percentage of over 80 per cent in the enclaves.