Kolkata | Jagran Politics Desk: The highly anticipated assembly elections in West Bengal began on Saturday with 30 constituencies going to polls. Following the conclusion of the first phase of polling in West Bengal, the Election Commission said that a turnout of 79.79 per cent was recorded amid fears over the second wave of the deadly coronavirus.

As per the official figures of the Election Commission, Purba Medinipur recorded the highest turnout at 82.51 per cent, followed by Jhargram at 80.56, Paschim Medinipur at 80.12 per cent, Bankura at 79.90 per cent and Purulia at 77.07 per cent.

The EC said that the situation mainly remained peacefully but violence with reported in some parts of the state, including Purba Medinipur and Majna.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Soumendu Adhikari, brother of Suvendu Adhikari, alleged that he was attacked by Trinamool Congress (TMC) supporters in Contai. He alleged that TMC workers were stopping voters from casting their votes in Contai and complained to the officials about the same.

"Under the leadership of TMC block president Ram Govind Das and his wife poll rigging was underway at three polling booths. My arrival here created a problem for them to continue with their mischiefs so they attacked my car and thrashed my driver," news agency ANI quoted Soumendu as saying.

In Purba Medinipur's Satsatmal village, an incident of firing and bombing was also reported before the beginning of the first phase. The officials said that two security personnel were injured in the incident, adding that a probe has been ordered.

Apart from Satsatmal, protests erupted in Majna where people claimed that the EVMs were malfunctioning and the VVPAT slip showed results in favour of a particular party, no matter which outfit they voted for. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also claimed that EVMs are malfunctioning and alleged that the BJP was using central forces to intimidate the voters.

"Today, in some polling booths of Kanthi, the VVPAT showed that votes were getting polled in favour of the BJP, even as a person pressed the button next to the symbol of some other party. In some areas, central forces were seen threatening voters. The EC must take action," she said at a press rally, as reported by news agency PTI.

The EC later said that malfunctioning was reported in a few EVMs but were replaced or restored as soon as possible. It also said that it is analysing the concerns raised by the political parties and will take the necessary steps accordingly.

In the first phase of polling, over 73 lakh voters -- 37.52 lakh males, 36.27 females and 55 third gender voters -- were eligible to cast votes. The EC had deployed 730 companies of central forces guarded 10,288 polling booths housed in 7,061 premises.

In the first phase of polling, the fates of several political heavyweight candidates -- BJP's Narahari Mahato (a former Forward Bloc MP), Left alliance's Dhirendra Nath Mahato, Congress' Phanibhushan Kumar and Nepal Mahato and TMC's Sushanta Mahato -- were sealed on Saturday.

In 2016, the TMC had won 27 of the 30 seats, where polling was held on Saturday. The Left-Congress alliance had won the remaining three.

The second phase of polling will take place on April 1 while the results will be announced on May 2.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma