Kolkata: Polling began at 7 am on Monday for 34 seats in the seventh phase of the assembly elections in West Bengal, amid tight security and a rampaging second wave of COVID-19.
Long queues were seen outside most polling booths where voting is underway adhering to COVID protocols. Over 86 lakh voters will decide the political fate of 284 candidates in this phase.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to exercise their franchise and follow all COVID-19 related protocols.
"The seventh phase of the West Bengal elections takes place today. Urging people to exercise their franchise and follow all COVID-19 related protocols," Modi tweeted.
Security measures have been heightened in view of the violence in the previous phases, particularly the death of five people in Cooch Behar in the fourth round of polling on April 10, an Election Commission official said.
The poll panel has deployed at least 796 companies of central forces in the seventh phase to ensure free and fair voting, he said.
It has also put in place measures to ensure strict adherence to health protocols during the election process, including wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing.
The state registered its highest single-day spike of 15,889 COVID-19 cases on Sunday, while 57 more people succumbed to the virus.
Voting is being held at 12,068 polling stations spread over nine assembly constituencies each in Murshidabad and Paschim Bardhaman districts, six each in Dakshin Dinajpur and Malda and four in Kolkata, including Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's home turf Bhabanipur.
Polling will continue till 6.30 pm.
Elections to two assembly constituecies - Samserganj and Jangipur in Murshidabad district - have been adjourned following the death of two coronavirus-positive candidates.
The EC has fixed May 16 as the date for polling in these two seats.
Six rounds of the eight-phased assembly elections in the state have already taken place, with the last phase scheduled for Thursday. Votes will be counted on Sunday.