53 percent voting till afternoon in Howrah by-poll

Kolkata, June 2 (IANS) Around 53 percent turnout was reported till Sunday afternoon for the Howrah Lok Sabha by-poll in West Bengal and voting was peaceful, official said.

"Till the last report, around 53 percent turnout has been reported. Polling so far has been peaceful. A few electronic voting machines malfunctioned during the day, which were promptly replaced," said Joint Chief Election Officer Saibal Barman.

The by-poll is a three-way contest between the Trinamool Congress and its former ally the Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

The poll was necessitated following the death of Trinamool Congress MP Ambica Banerjee April 25.

While the Trinamool Congress has fielded former international footballer Prasun Banerjee, advocate Sanatan Mukherjee is contesting on the Congress ticket, and Sridip Bhattacharya is the CPI-M led Left Front candidate.

Mukherjee alleged "Trinamool-backed goons" disrupted the poll process at some booths.

"In some booths Trinamool-backed goons did not allow the polling officers to function properly. The Trinamool is apprehensive of a defeat and is trying all measures to disrupt the polls," said Mukherjee.

With over 14 lakh voters to exercise their franchise, around 30 companies of central security forces along with police have been deployed for the poll.

Two camera-mounted special vehicles providing live feed of the polling booths are patrolling the area with election officials keeping an eye on the proceedings.

Though it announced its candidate, the Bharatiya Janata Party later withdrew from the election, resulting in the Congress and the Left accusing the Trinamool Congress of having a "tacit understanding" with the BJP.

The result of the election will be out Wednesday.

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