West Bengal votes for the fourth phase of assembly polls on Monday to decide the fate of 345 candidates in 49 seats spread across North 24 Parganas and Howrah districts. A total of 1.07 crore electorate will exercise their franchise in about 12,500 polling stations from 7 am to 6 pm on Monday.
The Election Commission is making heavy security arrangements by deploying around 90,000 personnel in the two poll-bound districts.
Besides 672 companies of central police forces, around 22,000 state police personnel will guard 49 seats spread across North 24 Parganas and Howrah districts polling for which will be held this Monday, sources said.
Keeping in mind the sensitivity of the two districts after a poll preparedness review, the poll panel has made a special intervention in this case.
Route marches for area domination by security forces which normally begin after the campaign ends started since last night. Besides one police observer in each of the districts, two more have been deployed in North 24 Parganas and another one in Howrah. Section 144 of CrPC, which regulates the assembly of five or more persons in one place, will be enforced strictly
State Finance Minister Amit Mitra and jailed ex-minister Madan Mitra are among 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 in the northern outskirts of the city.
Despite his claims to the contrary, Mitra has been under attack for lack of industrialisation during the Trinamool Congress regime in the state.
All eyes will 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 West Bengal from jail.
TMC supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee 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.
Greenhorns in the ring this phase include former BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya’s daughter Vaishali and former Bengal cricket captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla – both of whom are fighting on TMC tickets.
Shukla is pitted against actress-turned-politician Rupa Ganguly of BJP from north Howrah seat.
Footballer Dipendu Biswas has been fielded by TMC from south Basirhat seat which is being defended by BJP’s only sitting MLA Shamik Bhattacharya.
Bidhannagar Mayor Sabyasachi Dutta is fighting for his seat from Rajarhat New Town.
In his campaign trail Prime Minister Narendra Modi 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.
Amidst complaints of violence by opposition parties during elections, Election Commission has transferred North 24 Parganas Superintendent of Police Tanmay Roy Chowdhury and a number of other officers.
The issue of ‘Syndicate Raj’ or milking builders in the name of supplying inferior building materials at a premium by persons backed by political parties has popped up many times in this election.
Parts of Sundarbans delta are also included in this phase where climate change and man-animal conflict are issues.
Campaigning for the fourth phase of assembly polls ended on 23 April