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Kolkata/Guwahati: Despite Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee complaining of ‘blatant’ misuse of Central forces, as many as 77.68 per cent of the voters turned out to exercise their franchise till 5 pm during the third phase of Assembly elections in West Bengal on Tuesday, according to official data received here.

As many as 78,564,74 voters in 31 Assembly constituencies spread across three districts — South 24 Parganas, Hooghly and Howrah — are out to cast their votes during the third phase on Tuesday.

According to Election Commission data, around 68.04 per cent polling was recorded in the first five hours of polling, much on the lines of Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the elections held on March 27 and April 1, respectively.

Hooghly district, where eight constituencies are going to the polls, recorded the highest turnout at 72.6 per cent, followed by Howrah district where 68.37 per cent polling was recorded in seven constituencies.

The 16 constituencies in South 24 Parganas recorded the lowest turnout at 65.57 per cent till 3 pm.

Long queues of voters could be seen at most of the polling stations. So far, voting has been peaceful barring a few instances of allegations and counter allegations between the Trinamool and the BJP.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee complained of blatant misuse of Central forces in the third phase of polling.

“The blatant misuse of Central forces continues unabated. Despite us repeatedly raising this issue, @ECISVEEP continues to be a mute spectator while men in uniform are being misused at several places to openly intimidate TMC voters & influence many to vote in favour of one party,” Banerjee posted on her official Twitter handle.

There were complaints of violence and voter intimidation both from the Trinamool and BJP camp. While the BJP leaders claimed that the mother of one of their supporters was killed by Trinamool ‘goons’ at Goghat in Hooghly on Monday night, the Trinamool on its part claimed that its candidate from Arambagh, Sujata Mondal, was chased by BJP ‘goons’ at Arandi 1 gram panchayat.

Mondal happens to be the wife of BJP leader Saumitra Khan and had joined the Trinamool recently. The ruling party also alleged that their candidate from Khanakul in Hooghly, Munshi Najbul Karim, was beaten up by BJP supporters. The party is likely to lodge a complaint with the EC on Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier on Tuesday morning, the Election Commission suspended a sector officer after three EVMs and four VVPAT machines were found at Trinamool leader Goutam Ghosh’s residence. According to reports, sector officer Tapan Sarkar, who was in-charge of Sector 17 in the Uluberia seat, had spent the night at a relative’s house who happened to be Goutam Ghosh. The EVMs and VVPAT machines with Sarkar were part of the reserve stock. The commission has said that these EVMs won’t be used for voting on Tuesday.

A three-cornered battle between the Trinamool, the BJP and the COngress-Left combine is on the cards in the 31 Assembly seats where polling is underway on Tuesday.

The total number of voters in these constituencies is 78,564,74, including 4,049 service voters, 39,972,18 male electors and 38,590,13 female voters. There are a total of 10,871 polling stations, including 8,480 main and 2,391 auxiliary booths.

The number of 80 plus voters is 1,26,177 while 64,083 are PWDs (persons with disabilities) voters. A total of 243 voters belong to the third gender, while there are two overseas voters.

In total, 205 candidates, including 13 females, from different political parties are in the fray in the third phase of polling. Prominent candidates among them are BJP leader Swapan Dasgupta, Trinamool minister Ashima Patra and CPI(M) leader Kanti Ganguly.

Marking all the 10,871 booths as ‘sensitive’, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has deployed 618 companies of Central forces for the third phase of polling besides retaining another 89 companies of Central forces from the second phase, which are already stationed in South 24 Parganas, pushing up the number of forces to 707 companies – the highest deployment in the ongoing Assembly elections so far.

Assam Assembly Elections: 78.94% Voters Exercised Franchise Till 5pm In 40 Assembly Seats

Polling was underway peacefully amid tight security at the 40 assembly constituencies in Assam where voters were exercising their franchise in the final phase on Tuesday, officials said.

Voters wearing masks were seen queuing up outside polling booths, maintaining distance by standing in marked circles across the 12 districts in lower Assam where voting was underway.

The voters who did not have masks were provided with one, besides a disposable plastic glove before they were allowed to enter the polling booths.

No untoward incident has been reported so far, police said.

The first voters at the polling centres were greeted with saplings and the senior citizens with ‘gamosas’ (traditional Assamese scarf).

BJP ministers Himanta Biswa Sarma, Chandra Mohan Patowary, Siddhartha Bhattacharya and Phanibhushan Choudhury exercised their franchise at their respective polling centres in the morning hours. All of them are in the fray in this phase.

BPF ministers Chandan Brahma and Pramila Rani Brahma also cast their votes, besides BPL chief Hagrama Mohilary, Congress leader Ratul Patowary and state election icon and actor Kopil Bora.

For the convenience of the senior citizens and physically challenged voters, arrangements for wheelchairs and e-rickshaws were made.

The model polling stations have a children’s play zone, seating lounge, selfie zone and muppets. Many of the booths also had seating areas, in rainbow shades, themed on inclusivity and LGBTQ rights.

Many polling centres were decorated with recyclable items, having art installations made with bottles, plastic wrappers, etc.

Some of the voting centres were also decked up, representing the multi-cultural diversity of the state. Ethnic fabric and handicraft items were on display, besides mannequins wearing tribal attires put up at the selfie zones.

The Assamese festival of Bihu was also a popular theme in several polling booths. Arch gates were set up, besides the seating areas decorated with colourful chairs, giving the voting centres a festive look.

At a voting station in Goalpara, the women polling personnel wore identical mekhela and chador — an Assamese traditional attire.

(With Inputs From PTI)

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