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As history beckons TMC, high-stakes battle in third phase polling in state

As history beckons TMC, high-stakes battle in third phase polling in state

Kolkata: Around 70 lakh people will exercise their franchise in five Lok Sabha constituencies spread over three districts on Tuesday.

These seats include Jangipur and Murshidabad in Murshidabad district, Malda North and South in Malda district and Balurghat in South Dinajpur district.

The Election Commission has taken elaborate measures to ensure free, fair and peaceful election in these constituencies. A total of 324 company of the Central Forces will be deployed. Of these, 177 company of the Central Forces will be deployed in Jangipur and Murshidabad seats. In Malda North and South, 94 company of Central Forces will be in place while in Balurghat another 44 will be pressed into service.

The Election Commission replaced the Superintendent of Police Arnab Roy with Ajay Prasad just 48 hours before the polls in Malda. A Congress delegation met Prasad on Monday afternoon and urged him to ensure free and fair elections.

In Murshidabad, there are 1,907 polling booths which are being housed in 1,377 polling premises. In Jangipur, there are 1,762 booths within 1,148 polling stations. In Malda North, there are 1,713 booths housed in 1,320 premises while in Malda South, around 1,616 booths are housed in 1,106 premises. In Balurghat, there are 1,530 booths housed in 1,345 premises. The seats are most crucial for the Trinamool Congress. Of the five seats, TMC had only one seat in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. It went up to two after Mausam Noor joined the TMC and is fighting from Malda North. TMC's Arpita Ghosh won by 1.06 lakh votes in 2014 while Mausam defeated her nearest candidate by over 67,000 votes.

Political experts said Malda is a Congress stronghold for the past five decades since the time of ABA Ghani Khan Chowdhury. Ghani Khan's brother AHA Khan Chowdhury won the Malda South seat by over 1.64 lakh votes in 2014. In Murshidabad district, Abhijit Mukherjee was elected from Jangipur seat by over 8,000 votes. Badaruddoza Khan of the CPI(M) was elected from Murshidabad by over 18,000 votes. Even in the 2016 Assembly elections, two ministers of the TMC — Sabitri Mitra and Krishnendu Narayan Chowdhury were defeated. But in 2018 Panchayat elections, Trinamool won the Zilla Parishad. Banerjee is trying to make inroads in Malda and joining of Noor is a major achievement of the party before the elections. Like Malda, Murshidabad is a Congress stronghold and the TMC had lost all the three seats in 2014. Adhir Chowdhury won the Berhampur seat while Abhijit Mukherjee and Badaruddoza Khan got elected in 2014.

TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee deputed Suvendu Adhikari, state Transport minister, to look after the party's organisation in the district. The decision has brought enormous success for the party. In 2018, Trinamool got control over the Zilla Parishad and three MLAs have joined the party. Political experts said a tough tussle is expected in all the five seats and people will have to wait till May 23 to know the result as the strength of Congress and TMC is evenly poised in Malda and Murshidabad respectively.

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