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Bengal Assembly elections 2021: turncoats, ex-ministers an actors

Phase III voting on, 77.68 per cent turnout till 5pm across 31 seats, rivals trade charges on violence
Tarakeswar Constituency BJP candidate Swapan Dasgupta speaks to locals in front of a polling station, at Bamanpara in Hooghly district on Tuesday.
Tarakeswar Constituency BJP candidate Swapan Dasgupta speaks to locals in front of a polling station, at Bamanpara in Hooghly district on Tuesday.

Our Bureau, Agencies   |   Calcutta   |   Published 06.04.21, 04:47 PM

Over 77 per cent votes were cast till 5pm in the 31 seats of Bengal where polling is underway for the third phase on Tuesday amid accusations of violence by rival parties.

Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday claimed BJP activists were forcibly occupying polling booths and attacking TMC members, including party candidates, and asserted that she would not get bogged down by such "intimidatory tactics".

Addressing a public meeting in Alipurduar district, the TMC supremo said her party's nominee in Arambagh, Sujata Mondal, was chased and hit on head near a polling booth by saffron party workers. She claimed she had received over 100 complaints of assault and violence since morning, and that the EC had been duly informed but to no avail.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was addressing a rally in Cooch Behar, countered the chief minister's allegations. Claiming that a BJP wave was blowing across Bengal and that his party would form the next government, Modi said Mamata's angry reactions indicated that she had lost the polls.

In the fray in the third phase of the Bengal polls, are hard-nosed politicians, turncoats and political newbies. Among the big contenders is former CPM minister Kanti Ganguly, making a third attempt from Raidighi. The former Rajya Sabha MP from BJP, Swapan Dasgupta is contesting from Tarakeswar. The BJP has also fielded actresses Papia Adhikary and Tanushree Chakraborty in Uluberia South and Shyampur, both in Howrah. 

The outgoing Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee is seeking re-election from Baruipur West. Sujata Mandal Khan, the estranged wife of BJP MP Saumitra Khan, is the Trinamul nominee in Arambagh.

On the other hand, the TMC turncoat Dipak Haldar has been fielded by the BJP in Diamond Harbour. Last week, Haldar was beaten up by alleged Trinamul supporters. Similar attacks happened in Falta as well. Clashes have also been reported between the Trinamul and ISF supporters.

TMC far ahead

Going by numbers, the ruling Trinamul is far ahead of all it’s rivals in the fray. Of the 31 seats where polling is being held, the Trinamul is ahead in 29 seats, while the remaining two are with BJP as per the 2019 Lok Sabha poll results. Rival alliance partners- Congress and the Left- who fought the Lok Sabha polls separately, were reduced to single digits in terms of vote share. The Congress and Left in alliance with the Indian Secular Front are desperate to see a section of the voters it had lost in 2019 return to its fold.

In 2016, out of the 16 seats in South 24-Parganas, the Left had won only one seat, the rest going to the Trinamul’s kitty. The Trinamul, in 2016, had won all the eight seats of Hooghly that are voting on Wednesday, though three years later the BJP had marched ahead in two of the seats: Goghat and Pursurah.

The biggest worry for the Trinamul is infighting and charges of corruption.

Logic of 8 phases

Mamata also questioned the logic behind holding Bengal assembly elections in eight phases. "It could have been done in 3 or 4 phases," she said.

"Was it not prudent to hold the elections in fewer phases and wrap it up early in view of the COVID-19 situation?" the chief minister asked. Banerjee also claimed that the coronavirus situation was not grim in the state as of now. 

Heavy security

To ensure that the more than 78.5 lakh voters can exercise their voting rights to decide the fate of 205 candidates 618 companies of CAPF deployed to guard 10,871 polling stations, all of which have been marked "sensitive" by the Election Commission. State police forces have also been deputed at strategic locations to aid the CAPF.  

Sharpening its attack on the TMC over issues ranging from corruption to political violence, the BJP held power- packed campaigns across the three districts over the past few days, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who addressed several public meetings.

The TMC chief, who is still recuperating from her injuries, traversed the length and breadth of the three districts on her wheelchair, highlighting her government's development schemes, and hurling barbs at the BJP over price rise, and other central government policies.

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