Voting is on for the remaining 61 Assembly constituencies in Assam and 31 seats in West Bengal. This is the final phase of voting in Assam whereas Bengal is holding the second part of the first phase of elections in the state.
Assam recorded 71 per cent polling until 3pm. Voters, particularly women and first time voters, stood in queues at the polling booths two hours ahead of the commencement of polling at 7 AM for the remaining 61 seats.
Congress, BJP-AGP-BPF alliance and AIUDF are locked in a keen contest where 525 candidates are in the fray. The 61 constituencies are spread across lower and central Assam.
Polling in being held amid tight security. With over 50,000 polling personnel deployed for the second phase, security has been tightened across the constituencies, particularly those in four Bodoland Territorial Area districts where NDFB(S) ultras are active and in Goalpara district which witnessed a bomb blast recently.
Strict vigil is being maintained in Dhubri district bordering Bangladesh and Baksa sharing border with Bhutan.
In Bengal, 163 candidates, including 21 women, are in the fray in 31 seats of West Midnapore, Bankura and Burdwan districts. It’s a triangular contest in the state between the ruling Trinamool Congress, Left Front-Congress alliance and the BJP.
Sporadic incidents of violence marred the polls in West Midnapore. A total of 60 per cent of the electorate cast their vote until 1 pm in Bengal.
Five-time CPI(M) MLA from Narayangarh and Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra and senior state Congress leader Manas Bhuniya from Sabang are among the major candidates in this phase. 91-year-old Gyan Singh Sohanpal, the senior most member in the West Bengal Assembly, is also in the fray again from Kharagpur Sadar seat where he is pitted against BJP state president Dilip Ghosh.
Besides the Saradha chitfund scam, the Opposition has been targeting the ruling TMC on the recent Narada sting operation where party leaders were purportedly seen accepting bribe. Issues related to industrialisation and the ‘Syndicate Raj’ have also been haunting the dispensation.
On the other hand, Trinamool is making a determined bid for a second successive term by harping on ‘development’ and welfare schemes of the Mamata Banerjee government during its maiden five-year rule.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury were among the star campaigners for the opposition parties.
For TMC, party supremo Mamata Banerjee, has urged people to vote thinking “I (Banerjee) am the candidate in all 294 seats”, while campaigning extensively.
In Assam, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who led the campaign for the BJP-AGP-BPF alliance in both the phases, addressed four rallies while his ministerial colleagues Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari, BJP President Amit Shah and Chief Ministerial candidate Sarbananda Sonowal also pitched in.
For the Congress, party president Sonia Gandhi, vice-president Rahul Gandhi, state unit chief Anjan Dutta, former UPA ministers Ghulam Nabi Azad, Jairam Ramesh, Salman Khurshid and Sachin Pilot campaigned for its candidates.
The campaign in the second phase in Assam, which has a predominant minority population in several constituencies, focused primarily on the issue of infiltration.
The first phase of Assembly polls in West Bengal and Assam on April 4 a high voter turnout of over 80 per cent was recorded.
Polling was held in 18 of the 294 Assembly constituencies in West Bengal and 65 of the 126 seats in Assam.
(With inputs from PTI)