Kolkata: Voter turnout during the fifth phase of West Bengal Assembly elections on Saturday in four Maoist-affected districts is likely to cross 83 per cent.

The fate of Health Minister and CPI(M) stalwart Suryakanta Mishra and WBPCC president Manas Bhunia, who were among the 193 candidates in 38 seats in four districts, were sealed in EVMs.

The Left Front's stake is high in these constituencies because in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls its defeat at the hands of the Trinamool Congress in south Bengal notwithstanding, these seats were uninfluenced by the winds of change blowing across the state.

"At the close of voting hours, queues were seen in several booths. Till five pm, the turnout percentage was 80.19 per cent. It will exceed 83 per cent after all votes are
cast," state CEO Sunil Kr Gupta said.

Two helicopters kept aerial surveillance of the booths and there was no disruption in the polling process anywhere in parts of West Midnapur, besides Bankura, Burdwan and Purulia districts, he said, adding the polling was by and large peaceful except for some stray incidents.

In Debra in West Midnapur, the police dispersed supporters of Trinamool Congress and CPI(M) engaged in scuffling and brick-batting outside a polling booth. One CPI(M) supporter was injured, Gupta said.

He said 10 arrests and 109 preventive arrests were made, but no political arrest was made. In Keshpur, the police drove away a crowd which assembled outside a booth, he said.

Gupta said 62 EVMs were replaced during mock poll and when the polling process was underway.

Two journalists besides a photographer were beaten up allegedly by CPI(M) supporters after they spoke to the presiding officer Sourav Banerjee at Dayalpur in Galsi assembly constituency in Burdwan district, an FIR lodged by them said.

A local CPI(M) leader, Sk Zulfikar also allegedly abused them in the presence of the presiding officer.

District Magistrate-cum-Returning Officer, Omkar Singh Meena said he had asked the Superintendent of Police to arrest the culprits.

There was 83.75 per cent polling in 54 seats in the first phase on April 18, 85.32 per cent in 56 seats in the second phase on April 23, 78.3 per cent in 75 seats in the third phase on April 27 and 84.8 per cent in 63 seats in the fourth phase on May 3.

Muslim women fail to vote in Purulia

Though there were great expectations that they would vote because of special
arrangements made for them, 641 Muslim women who had never voted in six decades at two booths in Purulia district did not do so either today.

A women photographer had taken the photographs of the reclusive Muslim women of Nutondi village in Raghunathpur block-II as they did not wish to appear before a male lensman for their electoral photo identity cards and all-women polling
personnel were set up by the Election Commission for booth number 59 and 59 of Para assemby constituency.

"What can we do if they don't vote despite posting women polling personnel as desired by them," a disappointed Abid Hussain, the sub-divisional officer who is in charge of Para constituency, told reporters.

"It is unfortunate that none of the 641 Muslim women came to vote in the two polling booths," he said.

The husbands who came to vote, when asked why the women did not do so, had the common refrain that "we have been following this custom from the time of our ancestors."

60-year-old Mohammed Unus claimed the women had 'boycotted the vote for non-development' of the area.

The women had not voted earlier because they did not have the Epics since they were unwilling to be photographed by a male photographer, according to District Magistrate and District Election Officer A Singh.

(Agencies)