Kolkata: There has been 7.72 per cent voter turnout recorded till 9 a.m., in the first phase of polling for the 294-seat West Bengal Assembly, said the Election Commission on Saturday.
More than 73 lakh voters will exercise their franchise polling for 30 seats with 191 candidates in the fray. The first phase includes those seats from the Jungal Mahal area in the south-western fringes that are considered sensitive as voting began at 7 a.m.
Of the five assembly elections, West Bengal has the maximum number of seats and highest phases staggered into eight.
Seven seats in Purba Medinipur -- Patashpur, Kanthi Uttar, Bhagabanpur, Khejuri, Kanthi Dakshin, Ramnagar and Egra -- are ticked of as sensitive.
The polls 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 that they apprehend voters to be threatened in Nandigram. Raising concerns about voter safety in the state and the party approached the EC on Friday saying electorates were 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 EC office in Kolkata to raise the issue. "Many people with criminal records are living in Nandigram, Bhagwanpur and Haripur -- are not voters of the constituency. Voters are being scared and threatened. The Election Commission should ensure voters' safety," Dastidar said.
O'Brien tweeted: On May 2, Trinamool will win Bengal", and posted a chequered flag emoji highlighting three main points -- Bengal's daughter (Mamata Banerjee) will defeat Bengal's traitor (Adhikari) in his 'backyard' in Nandigram.
He slammed Modi and Shah calling them members of the Tourist Gang, and, adding that, "Women in Bengal will continue to wear saris any way they want."
Reports of EVM malfunction were reported from two polling booths in Kharagpur. The EVMs in booth number 98, 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.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged voters in a tweet: "Today, Phase 1 of the West Bengal Assembly elections begin. I would request all those who are voters in the seats polling today to exercise their franchise in record numbers", just before polling got underway in the state around 7 a.m.
10% turnout in 1st phase Assam Assembly polls
Around 10 per cent voters have cast their ballots so far on Saturday in the first phase of the Assam Assembly polls which is underway amid tight security in 47 constituencies, according to election officials.
Men and women in large numbers queued up in front of the polling stations well before the voting started at 7 a.m.
Polling will continue till 6 p.m as the Election Commission extended the time by an hour in view of the Covid-19 induced situations.
A total of 8,109,815 voters, including 4,032,481 females, are eligible to cast their votes across 11,537 polling stations mostly covering the eastern Assam's 12 districts.
The first phase of polling will decide the fate of 264 candidates, including Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal (Majuli), Assembly Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami (Jorhat), state Congress chief Ripun Bora (Gohpur), Asom Gana Parishad chief Atul Bora (Bokakhat), Congress Legislature Party leader Debabrata Saikia (Nazira), jailed Raijor Dal President Akhil Gogoi (Sivasagar) and Assam Jatiya Parishad President Lurinjyoti Gogoi (Duliajan).
Twenty-three women aspirants are also in the fray.
Covid-19 protocols for the voters, including social distancing and thermal screening, are being maintained.
In the 2016 elections, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliance secured 35 of the 47 seats, while the Congress won nine and the remaining three seats by other parties.
According to the election officials, over 30,000 Central Armed Police Forces along with thousands of state security forces have been deployed to maintain law and order during this phase.
No untoward incident has been reported so far from any of the 12 districts where the balloting processes are underway.
In a unique gesture, the election officials donated saplings to the voters in the model polling stations, which were decorated with colourful balloons.
The 126-member Assam Assembly will go to the polls in three phases.
The other phases will be held on April 1 (39 seats) and April 6 (40 seats).
The results will be declared on May 2.