Kolkata, March 27 Voters in West Bengal were found queuing up in large numbers outside polling stations across the 30 assembly constituencies with 36.09 polling recorded in the first five hours on Saturday.
Over one-third of the 73 lakh electorates have already cast their votes by noon in five districts registering their choice from the 191 candidates who are in the fray on the first day of the eight-phase poll in the state.
There have been some reports of EVM malfunctioning at over 60 booths and allegations of violent incidents.
However, the serpentine queues showed people are aware of the importance of the crucial poll that is seeing a bitter battle between the ruling Trinamool Congress-led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the BJP that has pitched every high profile leader into the campaign.
The voters also have 21 women candidates to choose from in the first phase.
The approximate voter turnout trend till noon in Bankura district was 36.48 per cent, Jhargram 36.87, Paschim Medinipur 35.90, Purbo Medinipur 38.80 and Purulia 33.65 per cent, according to the Election Commission's voter turnout App.
In East Midnapore, two security personnel were reportedly injured in a firing incident that took place early Saturday at Satsatmal, Bhagwanpur Assembly constituency ahead of voting.
There was tension reported from Tulsidi village where a fire incident took place. Security forces are keeping a close vigil in the area, surrounded by forests that were once Maoist hideouts.
There were reports of EVM malfunctioning at 20 booths in Bankura district, eight in Jhargram and 39 in Purulia. The EVMs in various booths had stopped working temporarily due to a technical glitch. The people said they waited for over two hours to cast their votes.
In Purulia, allegations were raised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against former minister and Trinamool candidate of purportedly distributing cash among the voters. The BJP has filed a complaint with the poll body.
Suvendu Adhikari's brother and BJP leader Soumendu Adhikari accused Trinamool Block President Ram Govind Das and his wife for poll rigging at three polling booths, saying "my arrival here created problem for them to continue with their mischief, so they attacked my car and thrashed my driver".
Dibyendu Adhikari another of the Adhikari siblings, told media that he got to know that his brother's vehicle was attacked in Contai with help of TMC Block President Ram Govind Das. "Soumendu isn't injured. Driver was beaten up. I've informed Police Observer."
There are seven seats in high-stakes Purba Medinipur the home ground of BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari. These seven Patashpur, Kanthi Uttar, Bhagabanpur, Khejuri, Kanthi Dakshin, Ramnagar and Egra are ticked off as sensitive.
Polling began at 7 a.m. amid tight security for the first phase when Jungal Mahal area in the south-western fringes that are said to Maoist affected are also voting. The polling will end at 6 p.m.
The polls are being closely watched because of prestige battles between Suvendu Adhikari, a former Trinamool Congress man, who is now facing his erstwhile supremo Mamata Banerjee in Nandigram.
West Bengal BJP President Dilip Ghosh cast his vote at a polling booth in Jhargram during the polling.
Compared to first two hours in the morning, the number of voters increased manifold on polling booths with all section of citizens seen enthusiastically exercising their franchise. Women, particularly the first-time voters, carrying voter slips and Aadhar cards were seen standing in long queues. Special police officers deputed for election duty helped the aged and the physically challenged voters at the polling stations.
Youth, who exercised their franchise for the first time, expressed happiness. At many places, students who came in groups waited in queues and cast their vote.
Of the five assembly elections scheduled in four states and one Union Territory, West Bengal has the maximum number of seats and highest phases staggered into eight.
The other seven phases to the 294-member West Bengal Assembly will be held on April 1, April 6, April 10, April 17, April 22, April 26 and April 29. Results will be declared on May 2.
The Election Commission has deployed around 684 companies of central forces that would guard 10,288 polling booths housed in 7,061 premises, officials said.
Besides, the state police is also deployed at strategic locations.
In the first phase, a total of 73,80,942 electorates will cast their votes. Of them, 37,52,938 are male and 36,27,949 female, while there are 55 third gender voters.
( With inputs from IANS )