More than one crore people in five districts of Bengal will decide what the next five years will look like for Union Minister Babul Supriyo, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s lieutenant Partha Chatterjee and others, as the fourth phase of polling for the highly charged state elections takes place today.
More than 370 candidates, including movie stars, MPs and even a cricketer, are on the ticket in 44 constituencies spread over Cooch Behar and Alipurduar districts in north Bengal and parts of South 24 Parganas, Howrah and Hoogly in the state’s south.
The Election Commission has posted around 80,000 personnel from the central armed police force (CAPF) to guard nearly 16,000 polling stations.
The highest deployment of 187 companies of CAPF – with 100 personnel in each company – will be in Cooch Behar, which has seen some incidents of violence in the run-up to the elections including an attack on BJP state president Dilip Ghosh allegedly by Trinamool supporters. Some 101 companies have been enlisted for Kolkata.
In one of the top contests of this phase, singer-turned-minister Babul Supriyo will take on sitting MLA Arup Biswas at Tollygunge, known to be the heart of the Bengali film industry in the southern part of Kolkata.
Bengal minister Partha Chatterjee, who is also the Trinamool’s secretary-general, will take on film actor Srabanti Chatterjee of the BJP in Behala West seat to return to the assembly for the fourth successive term.
Another actor Payel Sarkar is running from Behala East for the BJP while cricketer Manoj Tiwari is batting for the Trinamool from Howrah North.
Also in the race is Trinamool defector Rajib Banerjee, a former minister of the Mamata Banerjee cabinet, who will contest from Domjur in Howrah district on a BJP ticket. He along with fellow turncoat Suvendu Adhikari has been the focus of stinging attacks by Mamata Banerjee who called them “gaddars” (traitors) and Mir Jafar and attacked them in almost every election meeting.
Mir Jafar had betrayed Nawab Siraj-ud-Dullah of Bengal in the historic Battle of Plassey in 1757. The battle had spelt doom for the nawab and the British East India Company annexed Bengal and set the stage for colonial rule in the country that lasted for about two centuries.
Rajib Banerjee on his part has said at the campaign meetings that it had become impossible to remain in Trinamool owing to its “corrupt practices” and arrogance and anti-people stance of its leaders. He claimed that has joined BJP to work for the people of the state.
BJP MPs Locket Chatterjee and Nisith Pramanik are contesting from Chuchura and Dinhata seats in Hoogly and Cooch Behar districts respectively. Their presence in the poll roster for the state assembly had led the Trinamool chief to quip that the BJP is fielding its parliamentary members as it does not have suitable candidates.
The BJP has retorted that by nominating its MPs it showed the importance it accorded to the assembly elections in West Bengal.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president JP Nadda and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath campaigned for BJP candidates at various places by holding public meetings and roadshows.
Mamata Banerjee and Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee, a Lok Sabha MP, held several public meetings in many of the constituencies going to vote today.
While the 44 constituencies vote, campaigning will go on in other parts of the state with PM Modi holding two rallies at Siliguri in North Bengal and Kamarhati near Kolkata and Mamata Banerjee leading three in the North 24 Parganas district.
(With inputs from PTI)