Polling for the fourth phase of West Bengal Assembly polls, which will decide the fate of several Trinamool Congress ministers, began this morning with unprecedented security arrangements.
Voters were seen lining up before 12,500 polling stations in 49 seats in North 24 Parganas district, including Bidhan Nagar, and Howrah district as polling began at 7 AM.
The polling will continue till 6 PM.
An estimated 1.08 crore voters were eligible to exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 345 candidates, including TMC ministers Amit Mitra, Purnendu Basu, Chandrima Bhattacharya, Bratya Basu, Jyotipriyo Mullick and Aroop Roy to choose from.
Of the total contestants only 40 candidates are women.
Meanwhile, in the wake of reports of violence in the third phase of polling which left at least one CPI-M worker dead, the Election Commission has made unprecedented security arrangements for this phase.
Altogether 90,000 security personnel including central armed forces have been deployed. Special intervention includes patrolling in night and even on river, which is being done for the first time in this elections.
Special focus is being laid on Salt Lake area (Bidhannagar) in the northern part of city, EC officials said.
The central force contingent includes 672 companies who will be assisted by a 22,000 strong team of state police personnel.
To keep a strict vigil on the law and order situation, five police observers, all of IAS ranks, have been deployed in the two districts.
Besides, another 1100 mobile surveillance teams will be doing additional monitoring work.
Based on inputs from the electorate, about 5500 voters have been identified as vulnerable voters who received threats or intimidation from about 1500 trouble mongers.
Around 1400 of the history-sheeters have been "bound down" by the district authorities.
All eyes will be on jailed former Transport and Sports minister Madan Mitra, who is contesting from Kamarhati seat in North 24 Parganas district.
Mitra was arrested by CBI in December 2014 in the multi-crore rupee Saradha chit fund scam. This is the first time that a high-profile candidate is fighting elections in West Bengal from jail.
Interestingly, despite being a registered voter he will not be allowed to cast his vote because of incarceration.
Greenhorns in the fray in 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 lone sitting MLA Shamik Bhattacharya.
Bidhannagar Mayor Sabyasachi Dutta is fighting for his seat from Rajarhat New Town.
Issues like the 'Syndicate Raj' (local real estate cartel), Saradha chit fund scam and Narada sting operation dominated the campaigns of this poll.
Two other phases of the six-phase long Bengal election will be held on April 30 and May 5 while results will be out on May 19.