Polling began at 7 am for the 30 seats in the first phase of the assembly elections in West Bengal amid tight security, officials said.
More than 73 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 191 candidates in these seats, most of which are located in the once-Naxal-affected Jungle Mahal region.
The elections are being held following COVID-19 guidelines in all nine seats in Purulia, four in Bankura, four in Jhargram and six in Paschim Medinipur, besides the seven seats in high-stakes Purba Medinipur — the home turf of BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari.
The elections, which will continue till 6 pm, are being held amid tight security with the Election Commission deploying around 730 companies of central forces, guarding 10,288 polling booths housed in 7,061 premises, officials said.
Long queues were seen outside many booths even before polling began with people stepping out early to avoid the sweltering heat, besides the uncertainty of being able to cast their votes in case of violence later in the day.
Most of the voters and political party workers were seen without masks amid a resurgent coronavirus. In some booths, the voters were provided masks, while santisers were made available at all the locations.
In Assam, 264 candidates, including 23 women, are in the fray in the first phase.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Speaker Hitendranath Goswami, and Assam state Congress chief Ripun Borah besides several cabinet ministers from the ruling BJP and Asom Gana Parishad, are in the fray
Most of these 47 seats are witnessing a triangular contest between the ruling BJP-AGP alliance, the Congress-led opposition grand alliance and the newly-formed Assam Jatiya Parishad.