Cooch Behar/Alipurduar: Amid great enthusiasm and long queues before polling booths, voting began at 7 am for two constituencies -- Cooch Behar (SC) and Alipurduar (ST) -- in northern West Bengal in phase one of the Lok Sabha polls in the state on Thursday.
A total of 34,54,274 voters, including 16,81,051 women and 29 registered in the 'other' category. are eligible to exercise their franchise across 3844 polling stations to decide the fate of 18 candidates during the day, kick-starting over a month long staggered polling in the eastern state.
In another historic day for the dwellers of the erstwhile enclaves in Cooch Behar, they are voting to elect a government at the centre for the first time, marking another giant leap in their absorption into India after nearly seven decades of stateless existence. They had earlier voted twice in 201 during the assembly polls and the Lok Sabha by-poll.
Following the implementation of the historic Land Boundary Agreement, Bangladesh and India exchanged 162 adversely-held enclaves on August 1, 2015.
Organised tea garden workers and their dependents form a sizeable chunk of voters in Cooch Behar Aand about 50 per cent of the electorate in Alipurduar.
In 2014, the Trinamool Congress had won both the seats.
The Trinamool, BJP, Congress and Left Front are in fray in both the seats. Among the Left Front partners, the RSP is contesting Alipurduar, and the All India forward Bloc is fighting it out in Cooch Behar.
The subsequent phases of polls will be held on April 18, April 23, April 29, May 6, May 12 and May 19.
The votes will be counted on May 23.