Bengal, Assam set for second phase polling today, all eyes on Nandigram: All you need to know

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Bengal, Assam second phase polling to be held on April 1.

Polling for the second phase of West Bengal and Assam assembly elections in 30 and 39 seats respectively will be held today (April 1). Among many key contests, all eyes will be on high profile Nandigram constituency where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is pitted against her aide turned adversary Suvendu Adhikari. Voting for the first phase of Bengal and Assam elections was held on Saturday (March 27) in which Bengal registered nearly 80 per cent voter turnout while Assam recorded 72 per cent. Bengal and Assam elections are being held in 8 and 3 phases and the counting of votes will be held on May 2.

West Bengal, Assam second phase polling | All you need to now

  • All 10,620 booths in Bengal where polling will be held on Thursday have been declared as sensitive by the Election Commission, which has deployed around 651 companies of central forces to provide security, officials said.
  • Besides, the state police will also be deployed at strategic locations during the polling which will begin at 7 am, they said.
  • A total 199 companies of Central Armed Police Force will be deployed in Purba Medinipur, 210 companies in Paschim Medinipur, 170 in South 24 Parganas and 72 in Bankura, the sources said.
  • TMC and BJP are contesting in all the 30 seats, while CPI(M) is in the fray in 15 and its alliance partners of Sanjukta Morcha the Congress and ISF are competing in 13 and two seats respectively.

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  • Polling will take place amid strict COVID-19 guidelines in nine seats of Paschim Medinipur, eight in Bankura, four seats in South 24 Parganas and nine in Purba Medinipur – the home ground of TMC turncoat and BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari. Nandigram falls in Purba Medinipur district.
  • The agrarian constituency which shook the foundations of the mighty Left regime over the anti-land acquisition movement in 2007, has now turned into a battleground of titans with Banerjee suddenly deciding to switch from her Bhowanipur seat to the constituency held by Adhikari, her former lieutenant who has switched loyalty to the BJP.
  • For Adhikari it is a battle for political survival as a defeat would be a devastating blow and might also put a question mark on his political graph in his new party the BJP.
  • Similarly, a victory would not only establish him as one of the tallest leaders in Bengal but would also push him few miles ahead of others in the Chief Ministerial race in case the BJP is voted to power.
  • For Banerjee, who is running for the third successive term as chief minister, a victory is a must to lead the government and keep together her party, which is faced with exodus.
  • For the Congress-Left-ISF alliance candidate Minakshi Mukherjee of CPI-M, the challenge is to regain her party’s lost ground.
  • While Banerjee had been camping in Nandigram for the last four days, BJP fielded its ‘big guns’, including Home Minister Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and superstar Mithun Chakraborty to defend Adhikari’s turf, which he had won in 2016 and take on `Didi’ (as Mamata is popularly called).
  • Apart from identity politics and Bengali sub-nationalism, the demand for jobs, inclusion of Hindu backward communities in the OBC category and setting up of agro-based industry have emerged as main poll planks in the second phase of polls.
  • Of the 30 seats which will see voting on Thursday, 23 were won by TMC in the 2016 assembly elections, five by Left Front and Congress and BJP one each.

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  • The political equation in the state had changed in 2019 when BJP made massive inroads in the tribal-dominated Janga Mahal region and Medinipur belt by sweeping all the five Lok Sabha seats.
  • The TMC, however, has been able to maintain its dominance in South 24 Parganas district, where there is sizeable minority population.
  • A prominent seat going to the poll in the second phase is Sabang, where TMC has fielded its Rajya Sabha MP Manas Bhunia. He is up against TMC turncoat and BJP leader Amulya Maity.
  • Bhunia, a former state Congress president, had held the seat from 1982 to 016 as Congress nominee before switching over to the TMC in September 2016.
  • TMC has fielded actor Sayantika Banerjee, a popular face in the Bengali silver screen, from Bankura seat against BJP’s Niladri Sekhar Dana. The Sanjukta Morcha has fielded Congress candidate Radharani Banerjee.

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  • In Debra seat, two former IPS officers will cross swords. One is BJP candidate Bharati Ghosh who is contesting against TMC’s Humayun Kabir. Both had resigned from their senior police posts to join active politics.
  • Banerjee, who is in a wheelchair since her accident early this moth, crisscrossed the majority of the constituencies going to the polls in the second phase.
  • TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee toured the rest asserting that TMC will not let Bengal to be ruled from Delhi or Gujarat in an apparent reference to the battery of central BJP leaders and ministers camping in the state.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national president JP Nadda had led BJP’s campaign from the front addressing rallies at Kanthi, Bankura and Nandigram and urging the electorate to vote for BJP to usher in ‘ashol poriborton’ (actual change) to build ‘Sonar Bangla’ (prosperous Bengal).
  • In Assam, the second phase elections in 39 constituencies out of 126 will decide the fate of 345 candidates, including 26 women aspirants.

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  • The over a month-long hectic campaigning ended on Tuesday for the seats located mostly in central and southern Assam, and comprising six reserved for Scheduled Tribes and five for Scheduled Castes.
  • Assam Chief Electoral Officer Nitin Khade said that all preparations have been completed to conduct free, fair, peaceful and smooth elections on Thursday, when 73,44,631 voters, including 36,09,959 women, are eligible to cast their votes across 10,592 polling stations including 556 all women managed polling stations.
  • Khade told the media that the electorate comprises 89,875 voters aged 80 years and above and 90,000 first time voters.
  • Around 31,000 Central Armed Police Force personnel, along with thousands of state security force personnel, have been deployed to maintain law and order during this phase in which 42,368 polling personnel are engaged.

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  • Of the 39 seats, 15 fall in southern Assam’s Barak Valley region, comprising three districts — Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakhandhi — mostly dominated by Bengali-speaking people. In 2016, the BJP had bagged eight of these, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) four and Congress three.
  • In the Thursday’s balloting, the electoral fate of several Assam Ministers including Fisheries, Excise, Environment and Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Piyush Hazarika, state Irrigation Minister Bhabesh Kalita and Deputy Speaker Aminul Haque Laskar will be decided.
  • Suklabaidya is contesting from the Dholai seat for the seventh time on a BJP ticket, Hazarika from Jagiroad and Kalita from Rangia. Former Congress Minister Gautam Roy is contesting from Katigorah on a BJP ticket, while former Deputy Speaker Dilip Kumar Paul, who resigned from the BJP after he was denied ticket and was subsequently expelled, is contesting as an Independent from Silchar constituency.
  • The third and final phase would be held in 40 seats on April 6. Results will be declared on May 2. Nearly 80 per cent of 8,109,815 voters cast their votes on Saturday in the first phase conducted in 47 constituencies.

(With inputs from PTI, IANS)

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