West Bengal assembly elections: Amidst unprecedented security to preempt any violence, polling for the fourth phase of West Bengal Assembly polls which will seal the fate of a number of Trinamool Congress ministers, will begin tomorrow morning.
Across 49 seats in North 24 Parganas, Bidhannagar and Howrah district, a total of 1.08 crore voters will exercise their franchise in about 12,500 polling stations from 7 AM to 6 PM.
Voters will have 345 candidates, including a number of Trinamool ministers like Amit Mitra, Purnendu Basu, Chandrima Bhattacharya, Bratya Basu, Jyotipriyo Mullick and Aroop Roy to choose from.
Out of them, only 40 candidates are women.
Following reports of violence in the third phase of polling which left at least one CPI-M worker dead, the Election Commission has made unprecedented security arrangements for this phase.
Altogether, 90,000 security personnel including central armed forces have been deployed to ensure free and fair elections. Special intervention includes patrolling at night and even on river, which is being done for the first time in this election.
Special focus is being laid on the Salt Lake area in the city, EC officials said.
The central force contingent includes 672 companies who will be assisted by 22,000 strong state police team.
Route marches for area domination by security forces, which normally begin after the campaign ends, started two nights ago.
Besides one police observer in each of the districts, two more have been deployed in North 24 Parganas and another one in Howrah.
All eyes will be on former state transport and sports minister Madan Mitra, who is contesting from Kamarhati seat in North 24 Parganas district from Alipore jail.
Madan Mitra was arrested by CBI in December 2014 in the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam case.
This is the first time that a high-profile candidate is fighting elections in West Bengal from jail.
TMC supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee campaigned for Mitra in his constituency saying he has been a victim of a conspiracy by the Centre.
Mitra’s name has also figured in the Narada sting operation, an issue which has been haunting the TMC ever since the video tapes were released.
State Finance Minister Amit Mitra, who was secretary-general of FICCI before joining politics in the 2011 Assembly polls, is once again in the fray from the Khardaha seat in North 24 Parganas.
Despite his claims to the contrary, Mitra has been under attack for lack of industrialisation during the Trinamool Congress regime in West Bengal.
Greenhorns in the ring in this phase include former BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya’s daughter Vaishali and former Bengal cricket captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla – both contesting on TMC tickets.
Shukla is pitted against actress-turned-politician Rupa Ganguly of BJP from North Howrah seat.
Footballer Dipendu Biswas has been fielded by the TMC from South Basirhat seat, which is being defended by BJP’s only sitting MLA Shamik Bhattacharya.
Bidhannagar Mayor Sabyasachi Dutta is contesting from the Rajarhat New Town seat.
In his campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had claimed Mamata Banerjee had “virtually accepted defeat” which, he said, was evident in the manner in which the first three phases of elections were held in the state.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on the other hand has accused both Modi and Mamata of “resorting to falsehood and bluffing people”.
Under pressure due to the Narada sting tapes, Banerjee said she would have “given a thought” before choosing her party candidates for the ongoing Assembly elections had the tapes been telecast earlier.
Amid complaints of violence by opposition parties during elections, the Election Commission has transferred North 24 Parganas Superintendent of Police Tanmay Roy Chowdhury and a number of other officers.
The issue of ‘Syndicate Raj’ or milking builders in the name of supplying inferior building materials at a premium by persons backed by political parties, has popped up many times in this election.
Parts of the Sundarbans delta are also included in this phase where climate change and man-animal conflict are issues.