18% votes cast in Bengal in two hours
Cooch Behar/Alipurduar (West Bengal): Amid stray violence and EVM glitches, Cooch Behar and Alipurduar constituencies in West Bengal polled 18 per cent votes in the first two hours of polling on Thursday as the Lok Sabha polls kicked off in the country.
Of the total over 34 lakh voters in these constituencies, an average 18.10 per cent had polled till 9 a.m., an Election Commission official told IANS in Kolkata.
Long queues could be seen in front of the booths in both the constituencies from well before the polling process began at 7 a.m.
Voting process in a number of polling stations in Cooch Behar was temporarily disrupted for sometime as EVM machines stopped working. Trinamool Congress district chief Rabindranath Ghosh alleged a conspiracy and said he had complained to the District Magistrate.
"How can so many EVMs go bad? We smell a conspiracy. I have tried to complain to the Election Commission but they are not reachable. So I have informed the District Magistrate," Ghosh said.
A television grab showed a couple of injured Trinamool booth level workers in Cooch Behar. The ruling party blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party for the violence.
While Cooch Behar is a Scheduled Caste reserved seat, the Alipurduar is a Scheduled Tribes reserved one.
A total of 34,54,274 voters, including 16,81,051 women and 29 registered in the 'other' category, are eligible to exercise their franchise across 3,844 polling stations to decide the fate of 18 candidates.
Eighty=three companies of the paramilitary forces have been deployed in the two districts along with the state police.
Organised tea garden workers and their dependents form a sizeable chunk of voters in Cooch Behar and about 50 per cent of the electorate in Alipurduar.
In 2014, the Trinamool Congress had won both the seats.
The Trinamool, BJP, Congress and Left Front are in fray in both the seats. Among the Left's partners, the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) is contesting Alipurduar, and the All India forward Bloc is fighting in Cooch Behar.
The subsequent phases of polls in West Bengal will be held on April 18, April 23, April 29, May 6, May 12 and May 19.
The votes will be counted on May 23.