Kolkata, April 24 (IANS) With voting over in more than half of the constituencies in West Bengal, the assembly poll caravan on Monday moves to two districts bordering Kolkata — Howrah and North 24 Parganas — regarded as the citadel of the ruling Trinamool Congress.
Electors in 49 constituencies — 23 in North 24 Parganas and 16 in Howrah — will vote on Monday.
In the 2011 assembly polls, the Trinamool — then an ally of the Congress — had bagged 43 of the 49 seats. The Congress had got two, the Left Front spearhead Communist Party of India-Marxist three and the Communist Party of India one.
With the Left Front and the Congress stitching an alliance in the ongoing elections, it will be a challenge for the Trinamool to hold on to its base.
The extent to which the ruling party succeeds in retaining its domination will have a strong bearing on the overall elections.
Over 1.08 crore (1,08,16,942) voters across 12,481 polling stations, including 27 auxiliary booths, are eligible to decide the fate of 345 candidates — 40 of them female. The Election Commission will use 14,353 EVMs and 680 VVPATs.
The Trinamool and the Bharatiya Janata Party are in fray in all the constituencies. The Left Front constituents and the Congress are contesting 46 seats, leaving Howrah Central to Janata Dal-United, and Domjur to an independent Protima Dutta fielded by an organisation “Akranta Aamra” comprising people “victimised” during the five years of Trinamool rule.
Bhatpara presents a more interesting case. The Left Front had earlier decided to leave the Bhatpara seat to the Rashtriya Janata Dal, but the decision sparked dissent.
And in an unprecedented event, even the CPI-M state headquarters Muzaffar Ahmed Bhavan saw protests by party cadres of Bhatpara, who were hoping that Jitendra Shaw would be given the ticket.
Taken unawares and embarrassed by the demonstration, the CPI-M leaders initially reprimanded the protesters, but within a few days changed their earlier decision and asked the RJD to give the ticket to Shaw.
Finally, Shaw is contesting as an independent supported by the RJD, ALF and the Congress.
There are a number of star constituencies and star candidates in this phase.
Khardah in North 24 Parganas district is yet again witnessing a battle between two economists — state finance, industries and information technology minister Amit Mitra of the Trinamool and Asim Dasgupta of the CPI-M.
In Bidhannagar, that includes the posh Salt Lake, an abode of celebrities, top administrative and police officials, and well-heeled professionals, the Congress has nominated renowned lawyer Arunava Ghosh, who is taking on sitting legislator Sujit Bose of the Trinamool.
Another constituency hogging the limelight is Kamarhati, from where Saradha scam accused Madam Mitra, now in custody, is in the race on a Trinamool ticket.
Among major candidates are state ministers and Trinamool contestants Arup Roy, Upendranath Biswas, Purnendu Bose, Jyotipriyo Mallick, and the BJP’s only sitting legislator Samik Bhattacharya, who had won from Basirhat South in a bypoll in 2014.
Former India footballer Dipendu Biswas (Basirhat South), retired international cricketer Laxmi Ratan Shukla (Howrah North) and late Board of Control for Cricket India president Jagmohan Dalmiya’s daughter Baishali Dalmiya (Bally) are also contesting the election on Trinamool tickets in this phase.
Earlier, voters in 167 of the state’s total 294 assembly constituencies exercised their right to franchise on April 4, 11,17 and 21 in the first three phases.
Polling in the, fifth and sixth phases will be held on April 30 and May 5 for 53 and 25 constituencies, respectively.