40 percent voting in six hours in West Bengal

Kolkata, July 19 (IANS) Amid sporadic violence, around 40 percent of voters exercised their franchise till 2 p.m. in the ongoing third phase of the West Bengal panchayat elections Friday.

Three neighbouring districts - North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas and Howrah - went to the hustings to elect about 13,000 representatives to the village councils, the third tier of India's electoral democracy.

Till 2 p.m., 41.31 percent votes were cast in Howrah, 40.58 percent in North 24 Parganas and 38.11 percent in South 24 Parganas, a State Election Commission official said.

Bombs were hurled outside a polling booth in Udaynarayanpur of Howrah district. A CPI-M polling agent was taken to hospital after he was beaten up at Bilkanda in North 24 Parganas district.

Police claimed there have been no major incidents of violence.

"There have been minor incidents," said Bani Brata Basu, the additional director general of police.

The CPI-M put up road blocks in Dunlop and Naihati and blockaded the Shyamnagar railway station of North 24 Parganas protesting against alleged "rampant violence" and rigging by the Trinamool Congress.

The Trinamool denied the allegations.

Nearly one crore voters are eligible to chose their nominees in 12,656 booths in round three of the rural polls.

Over 37,500 candidates are in the fray, with the main contest likely to be between the Trinamool Congress and the opposition Left Front led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist.

Besides 50,000 security personnel, comprising 15,000 central paratroopers and the rest from the state armed police force, the central government has dispatched 4,500 additional reinforcements.

The first two phases were held July 11 and July 15.. Polling for the next rounds will be July 22 and 25. Votes will be counted July 29.


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