Kolkata (IANS) Despite Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee complaining of 'blatant' misuse of Central forces, 31.71 per cent voters turned out to exercise their franchise till 12 noon during the third phase of Assembly elections in West Bengal on Tuesday.
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 31.71 per cent polling was recorded in the first five hours of polling much on the lines of Phase 1 and Phase 2 polls held on March 27 and April 1, respectively.
Hooghly district, where eight constituencies are going for the poll recorded the highest turnout till 12 noon at 37.39 per cent, followed by Howrah district where 37.04 per cent polling was recorded in seven constituencies.
The 16 constituencies of South 24 Parganas recorded the lowest turnout at 34.71 percent till 12 noon.
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.