Second phase of Assembly poll in West Bengal tomorrow

Over 1.2 crore voters will seal the fate of 383 candidates, 33 of them women, in six north Bengal districts.

Kolkata: The voting in the second phase of Assembly election for 56 constituencies in West Bengal will take place on Sunday amidst an Election Commission's showcause notice to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and TMC leader Anubrata Mondal being under the poll body surveillance.

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. The Election Commission had showcaused Mamata on April 14 for violating Model Code of Conduct.

Immediately after hearing the news, an unperturbed Mamata had dared the poll body to take action against her and said people of the state would showcause it on May 19, the day of the result.

Meanwhile, Birbhum has become a centre of attraction with the Election Commission keeping controversial Trinamool Congress leader Anubrata Mandal under 24x7 surveillance of the central police force.

In both the cases, the EC initiated action on the basis of complaints lodged by the Opposition parties. In Birbhum, seven constituencies of Dubrajpur, Suri, Nalhati, Rampurhat, Sainthia, Hansan, and Murarai have been classified as left-wing extremism affected areas where polling will be held from 7 am till 4 pm. An elaborate multi-tier security arrangements have been made in these areas.

In the remaining constituencies, voters will get two hour extra and can vote till 6 pm. Out of over 13,600 poll stations, the EC has identified 2909 as vulnerable where extra precaution is being taken to ensure free and fair elections. The highest number of vulnerable booths are in the districts of Malda and Uttar Dinajpur.

Based on complaints received from the electorates, the poll watchdog has identified 16,315 voters as vulnerable. Most of them from Malda and Birbhum districts.

Over 3800 trouble-mongers, from whom vulnerable voters alleged they face threat and intimidation, have been identified, "bound down", and preventive action taken against them.

The EC sources said 15,962 EVMs and 1968 VVPATs, including the reserved ones, have been arranged.

All polling premises will be guarded by central police forces while the state personnel, who understand the local language, will facilitate the queue management. They will be allowed to enter the booth only in extreme cases when the presiding officer asks them to.

The outer layer of the security will comprise quick response teams, flying squads, sector forces and mobile high radio flying squads. Altogether there are about 700 mobile surveillance personnel.

The second phase will see high-profile electoral battle for the Siliguri seat where the town's mayor and former CPI-M minister Ashok Bhattacharya is pitted against former Indian football captain and TMC candidate Bhaichung Bhutia.

In the hills, the ruling TMC is supporting Kalimpong's sitting MLA Harka Bahadur Chettri, who quit Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and is now fighting as an Independent.

At stake is also the future of state's north Bengal development minister and TMC nominee Goutam Deb who is fighting from Dabgram-Fulbari seat in Jalpaiguri district.

Two other ministers whose political fates will be decided tomorrow are the state's food processing minister Krishnendu Narayan Chowdhury in Englishbazar seat and refugee relief and rehabilitation minister Sabitri Mitra from Manikchak seat.

BJP candidates actress Locket Chatterjee will have her luck tested at Mayureswar, actor Joy Banerjee at Suri and Singer Suman Banerjee at Englishbazar at Malda.

TMC candidate Soumitra Ray, singer of popular Bengali band 'Bhoomi' will try his luck in Malda's Chanchal seat.

Corruption, the Narada sting operation, Saradha chit fund scam and alleged muzzling of democracy under the present administration were the principal issues highlighted by the

Opposition parties during the electioneering.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his poll speeches attacked Mamata Banerjee accusing her of making an "adjustment" with corruption and "misleading" people with the slogan for change in West Bengal.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi launched a frontal attack on the TMC chief alleging she did not fulfil her poll promises and she and Modi are "two sides of the same coin".

Banerjee has been harping on the development and welfare schemes launched by her government.

( Source : PTI )
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