Last phase of West Bengal polls today

Last phase of West Bengal polls today

The sixth phase of polling to the state Assembly will witness lakhs of voters lining up at booths across Cooch Behar and East Midnapore districts on Thursday.

The Trinamool Congress seems to be in a better position with chances of winning most of the 25 seats witnessing elections in the final phase.

The ruling party, which faced charges of corruption in the last 5 phases, has a substantial hold in the region since 2011.

 While Cooch Behar is one of the few districts in North Bengal where Trinamool has fared well, East Midnapore has also been a sweet spot. Among the many places witnessing polling, the final phase also includes the East Midnapore hamlet of Nandigram, which was a major flash point since 2007 and gave a boost to Trinamool chairperson Mamata Banerjee in ousting the 34-year-long Left regime 5 years ago.

Incidentally, Thursday’s polling also includes a number of former Bangladeshi enclaves in Cooch Behar, which joined India in July-August 2015 and nearly 10,000 people will cast their votes for the first time in 68 years.

 Around 58 lakh voters will decide the fate of 170 candidates across 6,774 polling booths at Cooch Behar and East Midnapore. The last phase has a number of heavy-weights fighting to retain their seats, including state ministers and top leaders from different parties.

Polling on Thursday will have support from around 36,000 central security forces personnel, assisted by some 12,000 state police personnel, who were deployed almost a week in advance.  The Election Commission took special measures after receiving a letter from CPM state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra, who alleged excesses by Trinamool, particularly at Nandigram, where he claimed the ruling party did not let Opposition parties to campaign. The final phase of polling is taking place under the shadow of threats from Mamata, who charged a section of police officials of having “unleashed terror under instructions from EC”.

The poll panel, which plans to take action against her, is examining the contents of her speech at Chandipur in East Midnapore, where Mamata is believed to have threatened the police with “consequences”, if she returned to power. In the wake of Banerjee’s “threats” and concerns expressed by Opposition parties, the EC has sent formal requests to the state administrations of Assam, which shares border with Cooch Behar, and Odisha, which shares border with East Midnapore, to set up checkpoints along the state borders and prevent anti-social elements from crossing over to Bengal.

While Mamata seems a bit on the edge with the smooth efficiency of the poll panel, and what the Opposition is calling a “change of heart” within state police machinery, numbers from the 2011 Assembly polls and 2014 general elections point to a Trinamool sweep in both districts, with the party retaining 20 of the 25 seats in the phase.

While at East Midnapore, Trinamool won all 16 seats in both the earlier polls, the party currently holds 5 seats at Cooch Behar since Forward Bloc MLA Udayan Guha switched over to Mamata’s side. While the Congress holds 4 of total 9 seats and Left has one, the coalition is hopeful of turning things around with its combined might.

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