First phase of polling underway in crucial West Bengal assembly elections
Voters queueing up before a polling station in Purulia, West Bengal, in the first phase of voting in the State Assembly elections, on March 27, 2021.

First phase of polling underway in crucial West Bengal assembly elections

Kolkata, March 27, 2021

The first phase of voting in 30 Assembly constituencies of West Bengal is underway with 191 candidates in the fray on Saturday.

Seven seats in Purba Medinipur -- Patashpur, Kanthi Uttar, Bhagabanpur, Khejuri, Kanthi Dakshin, Ramnagar and Egra -- are being closely watched because of prestige battles between Suvendu Adhikari, a former Trinamool Congress man, who is now facing his erstwhile supremo Mamata Banerjee in Nandigram.

Trinamool has complained to the Election Commission of India (ECI) that they apprehend voters will be threatened in Nandigram. Raising concerns about voter safety in the State, the party approached the ECI on Friday saying the electorate was already being intimidated in Nandigram, Bhagwanpur, and Haripur.

Media reports showed an election vehicle being set on fire in Purulia's Bandwan, hours before the polling began. There was tension reported from Tulsidi village where the fire incident took place.

Security forces are keeping a close vigil in the area, surrounded by forests that were once Maoist hideouts.

Trinamool MPs Derek O'Brien and Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar have visited the ECI office in Kolkata to raise the issue. "Many people with criminal records are living in Nandigram, Bhagwanpur and Haripur -- they are not voters of the constituency. Voters are being scared and threatened. The Election Commission should ensure voters' safety," Dastidar said.

Reports of EVM malfunction were reported from two polling booths in Kharagpur. The EVMs in booth numbers 98 and 99 had stopped working temporarily due to a technical glitch, reports in the media said. The people said they waited for over two hours to cast their votes.

In Purulia, allegations were raised by the BJP against former minister and Trinamool candidate of purportedly distributing cash among the voters. The BJP has filed a complaint with the poll body.

The BJP workers also complained about Trinamool workers "unleashing terror" in poll-bound districts in collusion with a section of the state police.


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