As West Bengal assembly election gears up for the crucial third phase of polling where the fate of 31 Assembly seats spread across three districts will be decided on Tuesday. Considering the sensitivity of these 31 seats the election commission has not only declared all the 10,871 booths sensitive but also made an extensive arrangement to avoid any kind of untoward situation.
These 31 Assembly seats spread across South 24 parganas, Howrah and Hooghly are crucial both for the Trinamool Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party. Though in the last Parliamentary election the BJP won 18 seats but Assembly segment wise they only managed to get two out of the 31 seats that are going for the fray on Tuesday. The TMC despite its dismal performance was able to retain the rest of the 29 seats.
Election analysts believe that if the TMC manages to retain its vote share in these 31 Assembly seats then they might have an edge in their run up to form the government. On the other hand, the BJP has left no stone unturned to make a dent into this Trinamool bastion. All prominent leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, BJP President J.P. Nadda have held political rallies and roadshows here. The interest of the BJP leaders stem from the fact that TMC led in 164 Assembly segments in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, and the BJP in 121 and if BJP can scoop out some seats then it will be strong step towards the majority.
Factually, the 31 seats are divided among three districts where election will be held in 16 constituencies of South Parganas, 8 constituencies of Hooghly and 7 constituencies of Howrah. The total number of electors in these constituencies are 78,56,474 that includes 4,049 service voters with 39,97,218 are male electors and 38,59,013 female voters. The total number of polling stations are 10,871 that includes 8,480 main and 2,391 auxiliary booths. The number of 80 plus voters is 1,26,177 while 64,083 are PWD (Persons with Disabilities) voters. The total number of thirdgender voters is 243 while overseas voters are only two. The election data also shows that 205 candidates including 13 females from different political parties are in the fray for the third phase of polls.
“The auxiliary booths have been set up to abide by the Covid norms in the voting process as per guidelines of the Commission that mandates that there should not be more than 1,000 voters in a particular booth,” a senior official of the state CEO (Chief Electoral Officer) office said.
The Election Commission has made an extensive arrangement to avoid any kind of untoward situation. The highest poll body has deployed 22 general observers, nine expenditure observers and seven police observers and 914 micro-observers for the third phase of polls. There will be webcasting facilities in 5,507 booths, video facility in 326 places. Apart from that there will be 1,694 CCTVs to monitor the polling process.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) has decided to deploy 618 companies of central forces for the third phase and has also retained another 89 companies of central forces from the second phase which are already stationed in South 24 Parganas and that pushes up the number of forces to 707 companies – the highest deployment in this election so far.
South 24 Parganas divided into three police districts including Baruipur, Diamond Harbour and Sunderban — has the highest deployment with 396 companies of central paramilitary forces for its 5,544 booths with a concentration of approximately 5.1 personnel per booth. According to sources in the commission, of the 396 companies 151 companies will be deployed in Baruipur PD, 113 companies in Diamond Harbour and another 132 companies have been commissioned for Sunderban PD.
Apart from that another 166 companies will be deployed for eight Assembly constituencies of Hooghly and 133 companies for seven constituencies of Howrah rural areas. In Hooghly and Howrah, there are cumulatively 5,120 booths for which the commission has allotted 298 companies of central forces with a concentration of 4.1 personnel per booth.
Sources in the commission said that the central forces will be used not only for booth management but will also accompany the Quick Response Teams. “The central forces will be mainly deployed in and around the booths and the state force will be used for the maintenance of law and order. The constables will be used for the queue management,” the EC official said.