| Deputy election commissioner Anand Kumar in an inspection at Ultadanga. Picture by Pabitra Das
Calcutta, April 27: Hero to some, villain to others, but there was unanimity on the man of the day ' Anand Kumar.
In an election stripped of the political garnishing Calcutta is used to, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Mamata Banerjee, the two characters in search of votes, were reduced to mere voters themselves. Their mouths taped.
“Aap yahan se nahin hatenge (you won’t budge from here),” Kumar, the deputy election commissioner, barked at Mohit Kumar Majumdar, an officer of Calcutta police, outside a booth in Manicktala.
If that left little doubt who was calling the shots on this day, in Salt Lake when a voter complained that his name had been struck off as dead, the 1984 batch IAS officer put an arm of compassion around the elderly gentleman.
It was at Salt Lake that Kumar started his day at 7 am, heading to the nearest booth from the CRPF officers’ mess in Sector III.
There were many such complaints, at times heated. But underneath all this ' the unhappiness of voters like 55-year-old Pratima Saha at Khardah who said “my name was deleted but I’ve been living here for 24 years” ' was the day’s theme summed up in the number 65 per cent.
The turnout in Calcutta kept pace with the increased polling seen in the first two phases. Polling was up more than 9 percentage points from 55.78 per cent in 2001. In the other two districts ' North and South 24-Parganas ' the turnout was around 80 per cent.
As in the first two phases, the final figures are likely to climb when all the numbers are added up. Going by the trend, Calcutta’s turnout could crawl up towards the 70 per cent mark, unseen in recent memory.
While the debate raged if the high polling will go in favour or against the Left ' conventional wisdom being that it will not help ' an exit poll predicted 46 of the 76 seats where voting was held today for the ruling front. The Trinamul Congress is expected to get 24 and the Congress four.
The projection for the whole of Bengal, based on exit polls in the first three rounds, is 209 for the Left.
Still, there is some nervousness in the Left about the high turnout in Calcutta while Mamata sees her hope residing there.
It was clear that many who had not voted in the past, for whatever reason, were doing so. At Behala Kalyan Sangha Byayam Samiti, Kumar was showered with praise.
“Many more people have voted. It is primarily because of the Central jawans at the booths. We haven’t seen any of the bike bahinis (two-wheeler army) the CPM unleashes every election. All thanks to the EC,” said Shantibhushan Kar Gupta.
Kumar spent four hours in Salt Lake, which is part of Belgachhia (East) from where transport minister Subhas Chakraborty is contesting and which has been a trouble spot with two observers being pulled out as late as yesterday and six more deployed.
From there he moved to Dum Dum, Barrackpore and Khardah in the afternoon, spending 11 hours on the road.
As polling personnel complained about the long hours, he told them: “Even I’m working 12 hours.”
He couldn’t, of course, tell them how he missed his family, too, particularly the children ' a son and a daughter.
As reward he will have a grateful voter’s words to carry back home. “Congratulations! I’ve been able to cast my vote this time without a mishap,” Narayan Majumdar told him.