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Around 80 pc electorate cast votes as first phase Assy poll ends in Bengal

Kolkata: Barring a few sporadic incidents, the first of the eight-phase West Bengal Assembly election passed off peacefully with 80 per cent electorate exercising their franchise on Saturday, an Election Commission (EC) official here said.

BJP’s national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya thanked the Election Commission for conducting peaceful polls in West Bengal in four decades.

Addressing the media, Mr Vijayvargiya claimed that about 90 per cent of polling was peaceful and demanded the arrest of all booked criminals.

He accused the chief minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee of calling Suvendu Adhikari’s polling agent on phone to help her in the Nandigram election.

BJP on Saturday submitted an alleged tape of a conversation between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and BJP’s Nandigram Vice-president Praloy Paul to the Election Commission. In the tape, Banerjee is heard seeking Paul’s help in Nandigram, while he refuses to leave Suvendu Adhikari’s side.

Ms Banerjee and Mr Adhikari’s high-stake battle for Nandigram is scheduled for April 1.

However, TMC leader Subrata Mukherjee said, “Very tactfully they recorded and circulated in the press and highly planned. And we feel proud that Mamata Banerjee did it and even the boy he didn’t disrespect it. And said I have switched my camp I cannot join back.”

Meanwhile, a BJP delegation met EC following an attack on BJP leader and Suvendu Adhikari’s brother, Soumendu Adhikari.

“This is the first election in six years with fewer instances of rigging and violence. To avoid even 10 per cent of such cases in the second phase, we demanded EC to round-up anti-social elements,” a senior BJP leader said.

Soumendu accused the TMC of harbouring trouble at Contai, the home of the Adhikari family, and said he was attacked when he tried to stop the TMC supporters, who were allegedly driving away from the voters.

“We have told the EC that there should be free and fair polls. TMC is scared. We have given some names to Election Commission to take action,” added Soumendu.

Sisir Adhikari, the father of TMC turncoat and BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari, cast his vote at a polling booth in Contai this afternoon. Sisir followed in his son’s footsteps and joined the BJP last week.

“We will take the help of more Central forces at polling booths from now only ahead of second phase of elections,” he said.

Earlier, a TMC delegation led by Mala Roy and Sudip Bandyopadhyay today met Chief Electoral Officer, Kolkata and pointed fingers at the discrepancy in the data provided by the Election Commission among other issues as the first phase of West Bengal elections.

“Today we have visited CEO of EC. Polling agents have to be from the same locality, but BJP requested EC to send any person that the party decides. We request EC to change it from the second phase election”, Mr Banerjee said after meeting EC.

Mr Bandyopadhyay said, “BJP had submitted a memorandum requesting to change the system of appointing booth agents wherein he must be a voter of the concerned booth & allow anybody at any booth. The new system is not acceptable to us. We demand that from the next phase the polling agent must be local of the concerned polling booth.”

“First phase vote is over. We demand for deploying local people for booth agents. Then it will be easy for all to track them. CEO assured us that they will take this note seriously”, he added.

After TMC alleged that voting machines were “fixed” in some places, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said, “TMC knows that it is losing and that’s why it is saying all this. For such complaints, TMC should go to the Election Commission.”

The TMC claimed people voted for us but VVPAT showed them the BJP symbol.

Taking to Twitter, the Trinamool Congress questioned the Election Commission on how the voting percentage reduced drastically to half within five minutes.

“What is happening @ECISVEEP?! Could you explain how voting percentage drastically reduced to half within a gap of just 5 minutes?! Shocking! @CEOWestBengal, please look into this urgently!” the TMC tweeted.

“Voter turnout for ACs Kanthi Dakshin (216) and Kanthi Uttar (213) at 0913 hrs was 18.47 per cent and 18.95 pc respectively, 4 minutes later at 9:17 am voter turnout reduced to 10.60 pc and 9:40 pc. Such discrepancy raises a question on the genuineness of data issued by EC, TMC Rajya Sabha member Derek O’Brien in a letter to the Election Commission said.

“TMC will win Bengal. Bengal’s daughter will defeat Bengal’s traitor in his own backyard at Nandigram, members of tourist gang will continue to do what they do best – try & destroy institutions in India. Women in Bengal will continue to wear sarees any way they want,” O’Brien added.

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