Heavy polling were reported in Assam and West Bengal in the first phase of Assembly elections on Saturday. Assam recorded over 77 per cent turn out and West Bengal nearly 80 per cent.
Polls were conducted in 47 of the 126 Assembly constituencies in Assam, election officials said.
"The turnout of voters is estimated at over 77 per cent. The percentage may increase a bit after the final compilation of reports from all the returning officers," a senior election official told IANS over the phone on Saturday night.
In 2016 Assembly elections, in the entire Assam, 84 per cent voters had exercised their franchise. However, no major incidents have been reported so far from any of the poll-bound Assembly segments except some electronic voting machine (EVM) glitches in some polling stations.
Saturday's voting is being held in the Assamese heartland comprising the south and north banks of the Brahmaputra River.
After casting his vote at Sahitya Sabha Bhavan in Dibrugarh, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who is contesting from Majuli, told the media that the BJP would get more than 100 seats in the 126-member Assembly.
Both the ruling BJP-led alliance and the opposition Congress led coalition are confident of winning maximum seats out of the 47 seats that went to polls on Saturday.
In the 2016 elections, the ruling BJP-led alliance secured 35 of the 47 seats, while the Congress won nine and the remaining three seats by other parties.
The first phase of polling in the BJP-ruled state will decide the fate of 264 candidates including state Presidents of four parties and 23 female aspirants. Besides Sonowal, the other prominent faces in the fray are state Assembly Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami (Jorhat), state Congress chief Ripun Bora (Gohpur), Asom Gana Parishad chief Atul Bora (Bokakhat), Congress Legislature Party leader Debabrata Saikia (Nazira), jailed Raijor Dal President Akhil Gogoi (Sivasagar) and Assam Jatiya Parishad President Lurinjyoti Gogoi (Duliajan).
A total of 8,109,815 voters, including 4,032,481 females, were eligible to cast their ballot.Covid-19 protocols for the voters, including social distancing and thermal screening, are being maintained.
The 126-member Assam Assembly will go to the polls in three phases. The other two phases will be held on April 1 (39 seats) and April 6 (40 seats). Results will be declared on May 2.
Amid sporadic incidents of violence, an estimated 79.79 per cent of the electorate exercised their franchise in West Bengal.
According to EC sources, about 80.03 per cent of the electorate voted in Bankura, 80.55 per cent in Jhargram, 80.16 per cent in West Midnapore and 82.42 per cent in East Midnapore district.
Polling booths across the states opened at 7 am and closed at 6 pm as timings were extended by an hour due to the Covid-19 pandemic situation.
Jhargram, Midnapore, Patashpur and Ramnagar were among the key segments where voting took place in the first phase. Polling was largely peaceful, though some stray incidents of violence were reported from some areas.
Meanwhile, a BJP delegation met the EC officials here protesting against an attack on BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari's brother Soumendu Adhikari. Soumendu has accused the Trinamool Congress of causing trouble at Contai and said that he was attacked when he tried to stop the Trinamool supporters, who were allegedly driving away the voters.
"Elections should be free and fair. The state's ruling Trinamool Congress is scared. We have given some names to the EC to take necessary action," Soumendu said.
"This is the most peaceful elections I have seen in Bengal in the last four decades. Yes, there have been a few sporadic incidents but those were due to some anti-social elements. If that section of anti-social elements can be arrested, there will be no more problem for the voters in the rest of the phases of polling," BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargi said, as he congratulated the poll panel for conducting a free and peaceful elections in the first phase.
Earlier, a Trinamool Congress delegation led by the party's Lok Sabha leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Mala Roy met the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) in Kolkata and raised concerns over the difference in the figures provided by the EC. The delegation demanded that from the next phase, the polling agent must be a local of the concerned polling booth so that it becomes easy for all to track them.
The Trinamool Congress also questioned the EC on how the voting percentage reduced drastically to half within five minutes. "What is happening @ECISVEEP?! Could you explain how voting percentage drastically reduced to half within a gap of just 5 minutes?! Shocking!," it tweeted.
"Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress is under pressure and complaining about EVMs because they know they are losing...that is why they are saying such things," BJP state unit president Dilip Ghosh told mediapersons.