Voting is over for the 4th phase in West Bengal. The fate of 345 candidates for 49 seats spread across North 24 Parganas and Howrah districts was decided on Monday. The Election Commission announced that the voter turnout stood at 78.02 %.
After violence marred the third phase of polls, the Election Commission took no chance and deployed a record number of 90,000 security personnel in the two poll-bound districts. 672 companies of central police forces and about 22,000 state police personnel are also be manning the polls.
Even then, over 100 people were arrested for bogus voting and booth jamming in Barrackpore.
In Dum Dum North constituency, CPI(M) candidate Tanmay Bhattacharya sustained minor injuries after stones were hurled at his car. Three persons were arrested, Barrackpore Police Commissioner Niraj Singh said.
In Howrah north seat, Trinamool candidate Laxmiratan Shukla has complained that her co-contestant and BJP leader Roopa Ganguly entered booths and “threatened” presiding officers, disrupting the polling process. Ganguly in turn accused the presiding officer of being biased.
Voters were seen lining up before 12,500 polling stations since morning to avoid the scorching sun as the day progressed. The city had recorded 40.2 degrees Celsius on Sunday, five degrees above normal. Several districts are already reeling under heatwave.
A total of 1.07 crore electorate are registered to exercise their franchise in about 12,500 polling stations until 6 pm today.
The fourth phase is crucial for TMC as state Finance Minister Amit Mitra and jailed ex-minister Madan Mitra are among some of the high-profile candidates contesting in this phase.
Amit Mitra, who was secretary-general of FICCI before joining politics in the 2011 assembly polls, is once again in the race from Khardaha seat in North 24 Parganas.
All eyes will also be on former Transport and Sports minister Madan Mitra, who is contesting from Kamarhati seat in North 24 Parganas district.
Madan Mitra was arrested by CBI in December 2014 in the multi-crore rupee Saradha chit fund scam and is currently lodged in Alipore jail. This is the first time that a high-profile candidate is fighting elections in Bengal from jail.
TMC supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had campaigned for Mitra in his consistency saying he has been a victim of a conspiracy by the Centre.
Mitra’s name had also figured in Narada sting operation, an issue which has been haunting TMC ever since the video was released.
Also in the fray this phase are TMC ministers Purnendu Basu, Chandrima Bhattacharya, Bratya Basu, Jyotipriyo Mullick and Aroop Roy.
BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya’s daughter Vaishali and former Bengal cricket captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla are also in the fray. Both of them are fighting on TMC tickets.
Footballer Dipendu Biswas has been fielded by TMC from south Basirhat seat which is being defended by BJP’s only sitting MLA Shamik Bhattacharya.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had campaigned in Bengal, had claimed that 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, Banerjee said she would have “given a thought” before choosing her party candidates for the ongoing assembly elections had the video tapes been telecast earlier.
On Monday morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged voters to come out and vote in large numbers.
“As the 4th Phase of the West Bengal polls commences, calling upon those who are voting today to do so in record numbers.” the PM tweeted on Monday morning.
The last two phases saw close to 80 % voting in Bengal.
(With inputs from PTI)