2nd phase of Assembly polls: Over 1 crore to exercise franchise today
Over 1.2 crore voters will seal the fate of 383 candidates, 33 of them women, in six north Bengal districts — Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur, Malda — and Birbhum in south Bengal.
There are four Cabinet ministers, three from North Bengal — Krishnendu Narayan Chowdhury, Sabitri Mitra from Malda, Gautam Deb from Jalpaiguri and one from South — Chandranath Sinha from Birbhum.
Ashok Bhattacharya, former Urban development minister and now Mayor of Siliguri Municipal Corporation is contesting against former Indian soccer captain Baichung Bhutia. Former GNLF MLA Shanta Chettri will contest from Kurseong with a TMC ticket while GJMM former top brass Harka Bahadur Chettri will contest from Kalimpong, also with a TMC ticket.
Eight hundred companies of security forces will be deployed to conduct a peaceful election. Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi during his recent visit to Kolkata told leaders of the Opposition parties that it would be the prime duty of the Commission to conduct a fair and peaceful election.
There are 13, 645 polling stations out of which 311 are model ones. There are 169 polling stations which will be manned by women personnel only. The Election Commission on Saturday dispatched 15,692 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) to the polling stations. The polling personnel and election observers have already reached the respective districts and have inspected the booths. The security forces personnel conducted a route march to earn confidence of voters. The EC has carried out extensive campaigns urging voters to come out in numbers and exercise their franchise without any fear or favour. There will be aerial and RT mobile vans. There will also be CCTV cameras and webcasting. The EC has left no stone unturned to conduct free and fair election. The EC on Saturday issued a show-cause notice to Birbhum TMC president Anubrata Mondal and his movement has been restricted within Bolpur.
For five constituencies in Alipurduar, there are 13 candidates while there are 42 candidates for seven constituencies in Jalpaiguri.
Thirty seven candidates are contesting in Darjeeling. In North and South Dinajpur there are 101 candidates for 15 constituencies. In Malda, for 12 constituencies there are 96 candidates.
In Birbhum, the only South Bengal district, 69 candidates are fighting in 11 constituencies. The polling will start at 7 am and continue till 6 pm except in Dubrajpur, Sainthia, Rampurhat, Suri, Nalhati, Muraroi and Sashan for security reasons. The voters have been asked to get in touch with the EC if they are stopped from casting their votes, intimidated or prevented from going to the polling stations.
As Trinamool Congress’ base is not very strong in North Bengal, Sunday’s election will prove to be very crucial for the ruling party. If TMC can bag more seats here, then forming the state government with higher number of seats would be easier. Over the years, the party has strengthened the party base and political observers believe that TMC would do well in north Bengal.
Sunday’s election is also an acid test for the alliance. Ashok Bhattacharya had first made this alliance to win the Siliguri Municipal Corporation and hence, it is called Siliguri line. In Alipurduar, CPI(M) is backing the Congress candidate against RSP candidate, the former MLA Nirmal Das. Two seats in Malda are very important and it will be a tough fight for Krishnendu Narayan Chowdhury. Gautam Deb will have a tough contest this year as his organisation has become weak and many of his leaders have joined the Congress. Development is the key word in this election. TMC chief Mamata Banerjee has held meetings in favour of the candidates and chalked out elaborate schemes in this regard.