Siliguri: Nearly 17 per cent of the electorate cast their votes amid stray incidents of violence in the three northern West Bengal constituencies in the second phase of Lok Sabha elections on Thursday.
Tea garden workers were among those who turned out in strength in the Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri constituencies, while Muslim community members were seen in good numbers at the prestigious Raiganj seat in the early hours.
In the first two hours till 9 a.m., the overall polling percentage was 16.78, with Raiganj recording 17.45, Jalpaiguri 16.84 and Darjeeling 16.14 per cent turnout, an Election Commission (EC) official said in Kolkata.
Voting across 5,390 polling stations began at 7 a.m. and will end at 6 p.m.
In Chopra under the Darjeeling constituency, voters put up a road blockade demanding CRPF personnel be deployed in all polling stations to ensure their security.
The villagers refused to cast their votes under the supervision of state police personnel accusing them of being partisan towards the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress.
Polling process were disrupted in a few booths in Jalpaiguri due to faulty Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
There are a total of 49,32,346 eligible voters — 25,22,887 men, 24,09,372 women and 87 in the ‘other’ category — and 42 candidates in this phase.
In 2014, the Trinamool Congress had won Jalpaiguri, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) bagged Raiganj while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secured Darjeeling.
The star constituency is Raiganj in North Dinajpur district, where sitting MP Mohammad Salim of the CPI-M is taking on former Union Minister and Congress nominee Deepa Dasmunsi, BJP state General Secretary Debasree Chaudhuri and Trinamool candidate Kanaia Lal Agarwal. Ten other candidates, including five Independents, are also in the fray.
In Darjeeling, BJP’s Raju Singh Bisht is taking on Trinamool’s Amar Singh Rai, Saman Pathak of CPI-M and Congress’ Sankar Malakar. There are also seven candidates from other registered parties and five Independents.
Trinamool has renominated its sitting MP Bijoy Chandra Barman in Jalpaiguri, where the BJP ticket has gone to a medico Jayanta Kumar Ray, the Congress has fielded tea workers’ leader Mani Kumar Darnal and the CPI-M Bhagirath Chandra Roy.
The subsequent phases of polls will be held on April 23, 29 and May 6, 12 and 19. Polling for the Cooch Behar and Alipurduar constituencies took place in the first phase on April 11.