assembly elections

First phase of polling begins in West Bengal, Assam

Bihar-poll-voters-card File photo

The polling in West Bengal and Assam began at 7 AM on Monday amid tight security. In the first of the six-phase Assembly election in West Bengal, 18 constituencies in the Left-wing extremism-affected areas will vote.

A tight multi-layered security ring was thrown in the three districts of West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura to tackle any threat by Maoists.

Phase 1(a) of the election will decide the fate of 133 candidates, including 11 women, fighting from the 18 constituencies.

Out of them, 13 seats have been roughly classified as LWE-affected areas by the Election Commission where voting will end early at 4 pm due to security considerations.

In the remaining five constituencies of Purulia, Manbazar, Kashipur, Para and Raghunathpur voting will go on for two extra hours till 6 pm.

Total number of voters in the constituencies are a little over 40 lakh (40,09,171) out of which 20,47,202 are males.

The third gender category list shows only a handful of 16 voters. There are total 4,945 polling stations out of which 1,962 have been classified as critical ones by the Election Commission.

Voter Verifiable Audit Trails (VVAT) are being done in 562 polling stations.

Unlike in 2011 Assembly polls where the Trinamool Congress was its partner, the Congress this time has forged an alliance with the Left parties.

All the three - Trinamool, Left-Congress alliance and BJP - have fielded candidates from all 18 seats. Gobordhan Bagdi is the only one fighting on two seats of Para and Raghunathpur on a JMM ticket.

In all Left-wing extremism affected polling stations, the EC has decided to deploy a minimum of one section of force, which has around ten security personnel.

There will be a minimum of three security layers including sector forces and a quick response team.

Central forces will be present in every polling booth and depending on the requirement the deployment of forces can increase.

For aerial surveillance, two choppers will conduct regular sorties and inform forces on the ground if they notice any undesirable activity.

Litmus test for CM Gogi

Meanwhile, 65 of the state's total 126 constituencies voters go to the poll on Monday. An electorate of 95,11,732, including 45,95,712 women, are able to exercise their franchise in the two-phased election to decide the fate of 539 candidates.

As many as 1,241 polling stations have been identified as 'critical' polling stations, 1,992 as 'hypersensitive' and 3,739 as 'sensitive'.

In all 535 companies of security forces have been deployed in the 65 constituencies. Out of them 433 companies are central forces and 102 are from the state police, Assam Chief Electoral Officer Vijayendra said yesterday.

Security has been tightened across the state with the Indo-Bangla border along Barak Valley's Karimganj district being sealed.

The 65 constituencies are spread across Upper Assam, the hill districts, the northern banks and the Barak Valley.

More than 48,000 polling personnel have been deployed in the first phase.

The first phase will witness mostly direct contest between the ruling Congress and the BJP-AGP-BPF alliance, though the AIUDF has put up candidates in 27 constituencies.

The Congress is contesting all 65 constituencies, the BJP 54 and its alliance partners AGP in 11 and BPF in three.

The AIUDF, another important contender has put up candidates in 27 while the CPI and CPI-M in 10 each, the CPI(ML)(L) in six along with 60 others of unrecognised parties and 13 Independents.

Prominent Congress candidates in the fray include Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi from Titabor, Speaker of the outgoing Assembly Pranab Gogoi from Sibsagar and former Union minister and prominent tea tribe leader Paban Singh Ghatowar.

The BJP's star candidates in the first phase include Union minister and party's chief ministerial candidate Sarbananda Sonowal from Majuli and Jorhat Lok Sabha MP Kamakhya Prasad Tasa from Titabor.

AGP's working president Atul Bora is also an important face in the fray. While the Congress looks forward to retaining power for the fourth successive term, the BJP called for a 'parivartan' (change) to usher in development.

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