Kolkata : Led by enthusiastic centenarians and sprightly youngsters, thousands of people from the erstwhile enclaves in Cooch Behar made history as they exercised their right to vote for the first time in West Bengal assembly polls’ sixth and final phase on Thursday. Overall, more than 84 percent of the 58,04,019 voters exercised their franchise across 25 constituencies of Cooch Behar (nine) and East Midnapore districts (16), to bring the curtains down on the staggered month-long polls to the 294-member legislature in the eastern state.
There were sporadic incidents of irregularities with the opposition parties accusing the ruling Trinamool Congress of resorting to malpractices since balloting began at 7 a.m.
The overall turnout at 5 p.m. was 84.24 percent, with East Midnapore recording 85.09 percent votes and Cooch Behar 82.71 percent, said state chief electoral officer Sunil Gupta.
But the day belonged to the voters from the 51 erstwhile enclaves in Cooch Behar, including three centenarians, who were registered as electors for the first time since the country’s Independence. Till 5 p.m., 85 percent of these new voters had expressed their choice.
Doddering and frail but nevertheless beaming with pride, 103-year-old Mohammed Ajgar Ali – from the erstwhile enclave of Mosaldanga in Dinhata constituency – led three generations of his family in casting their maiden votes.
Perhaps the oldest first-time voter in the country, Ali was one of the 9,776 newly-registered electors from the erstwhile enclaves in Cooch Behar district.
Accompanied by his grandson Joynal Abedin and son Bilal, Ali was brought in a special vehicle provided by the Election Commission to a booth at Mansab Seoragudi Primary School in Mosaldanga – over 700 km from state capital Kolkata.
As he sat down on the floor momentarily, tense eyes darted to the centenarian. However, aided by officials, he was up on his feet and flashed a victory symbol accentuated with a toothless smile. “Perhaps I have lived for so long only to see this day. When I woke up early in the day, I couldn’t stand properly but now that I have voted, I can die in peace,” said Ali struggling to hide his emotions. Similarly, taking the huge leap in the same assembly seat are 103-year-old Haseem Ali Khandakar from the former Dakshin Mashaldanga and Kachua enclaves and Khatemon Bewa of erstwhile Purba and Dakshin Mashaldanga enclaves, said Cooch Behar’s Additional District Magistrate Ayesha Rani.