Over 73 lakh voters to decide the fate of 91 candidates in 30 seats in Bengal
As Bengal gears up for a tough triangular contest between TMC, BJP and Congress-Left alliance, more than 73 lakh voters will decide the fate of 91 candidates who are in the fray from the 30 assembly constituencies, most of which comprise the once-Naxal-affected Jungle Mahal region in the first of the total eight-phase elections.
The polls will be held under tight security with the Election Commission deploying around 684 companies of central forces to guard 10,288 polling booths housed in 7,061 premises, officials said. In addition, the state police will be deployed at strategic locations, they added.
In Phase 1, polling will take place maintaining strict Covid-19 protocols in all nine seats in Purulia, four in Bankura, four in Jhargram, six in Paschim Medinipur, and the seven seats in Purba Medinipur –– the home ground of BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari.
The TMC and BJP have fielded candidates in 29 seats each, while the Left-Congress-ISF alliance has put up candidates in all 30 seats. In 2016, TMC had won 27 out of 30 seats while two were bagged by Congress and one by RSP. However, the equations changed after BJP made clear inroads in the tribal-dominated Jungle Mahal region, winning all five Lok Sabha constituencies –– Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, Medinipur and Bishnupur in 2019.
Key constituencies in Bengal
In, 11 paramilitary personnel –– highest for any election in the state so far –– will be deployed per booth, officials said. “Declaring all 1,307 booths in 1,010 premises as Left Wing Extremist (LWE) areas in Jhargram, we have decided to deploy 127 companies of the central forces only for booth management,” an EC official told PTI.
With Suvendu Adhikari, once a confidante of Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, and his father Sisir Adhikari crossing over to BJP, Kanthi Dakshin seat in Purba Medinipur will be a seat to watch out for in this phase. The constituency had been held by the Adhikari family from 2001 till 2017 when then sitting MLA Dibyendu Adhikari, brother of Suvendu left the seat to represent the party in Parliament. This time, TMC has pitted Jyotirmoy Kar against Arup Kumar Das from BJP and Anulup Panda from CPM.
The TMC has fielded actor June Malia, a known face in the Bengali film and television industry, from the Medinipur seat against BJP’s Samit Kumar Dash. The Left-led alliance candidate is Tarun Kumar Ghosh of the CPI.
Apart from fielding its candidates in 29 of the 30 seats, TMC is supporting an Independent in the Joypur assembly segment in Purulia after the nomination of its official candidate Ujjwal Kumar was rejected by the EC due to a discrepancy. The party is now backing Dibyajyoti Singhdeo, known to be a disgruntled TMC leader who filed the nomination as an Independent and is up against BJP’s Narahari Mahato, who is a former Forward Bloc MP.
While state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee herself campaigned in most of the seats going to polls in this phase, BJP’s election bandwagon was led by PM Modi who took part in several rallies in the past few weeks.
Polling in the remaining seven phases will take place on April 1, April 6, April 10, April 17, April 22, April 26 and April 29. Results will be declared on May 2.
47 constituencies to go polls in Assam; CM Sarbananda Sonowal in fray from Maujli
Assam too is set to witness mostly direct or triangular contests between the ruling BJP, its alliance partner the Asom Gana Parishad, opposition Congress and the newly formed Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) in the first of a three-phased election to its Assembly. A total of 264 candidates, including 23 women, are in the fray for the 47 constituencies going to polls on Saturday amid strict security and COVID protocols.
The stage is all set for the polls, beginning at 7 am and ending at 6 pm, with the timing extended by an hour to ensure that COVID protocols are maintained.
Central security forces have been deployed for the first phase to prevent any untoward law and order situations. Strict patrolling is being carried out along with a vigil in critical areas in all the constituencies, he added. Preparations are in full swing with poll and security personnel leaving for the polling booths, spread across 12 districts of Upper Assam and the Northern Bank of the Brahmaputra, officials said.
The ruling BJP is contesting in 39 seats while its alliance partner the AGP in ten seats, with the two parties going to engage in a friendly contest in Lakhimpur and Naharkatiya constituencies. The opposition ‘Grand Alliance’ is contesting in all the seats, with the Congress putting up candidates in 43 constituencies and the AIUDF, CPI(ML-L), RJD and Anchalik Gana Morcha (contesting as independent) in one seat each. The newly formed AJP is contesting in 41 seats while there are 78 independents which include 19 independents of the other new party- Raijor Dal.
Key constituencies in Assam
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s fate will be decided in the first phase from Majuli (ST) seat where he is locked in a direct contest with three-time former Congress MLA and former minister Rajib Lochan Pegu. Speaker of the outgoing assembly Hitendranath Goswami is also engaged in a direct contest with former Congress MLA Rana Goswami.
Another prominent constituency is Titabor, which had been held by former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi for four consecutive terms. With his death, Congress has now fielded relatively little known candidate Bhaskar Jyoti Baruah against or the former AGP MLA Hemanta Kalita.
Polling in the remaining seven phases will take place on April 1 and April 6. Results will be declared on May 2.