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    83 pc turnout in fifth phase of Bengal polls

    Kolkata: Voter turnout during the fifth phase of the West Bengal Assembly elections on Saturday in four Maoist-hit districts known as the 'red fort', is likely to cross 83 per cent and was by and large peaceful.

    The fate of health minister and CPM 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.

    Polling was by and large peaceful except for some stray incidents, he said.

    In Debra in West Midnapur, the police dispersed supporters of Trinamool Congress and CPM engaged in scuffling and brick-batting outside a polling booth. One CPM 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.

    A journalist belonging to PTI and another to a Bengali daily besides a photographer were beaten up allegedly by CPM 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 CPM 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.

    The last phase of the polls will be held on May 10 in 14 constituencies in West Midnapur district. Counting will take place on May 13.