West Bengal revs up for 5th phase of assembly polls

West Bengal map
Kolkata, May 6: An electorate of over 74.17 lakh will vote in the fifth phase of the Assembly elections in 38 seats in four Maoist-hit districts of West Midnapur, Bankura, Purulia and parts of Burdwan in West Bengal on Saturday, May 7.

In all 193 candidates, including health minister and CPI(M) stalwart Suryakanta Mishra and WBPCC president Manas Bhunia, are in the fray.

The Left Front"s stake is high in these seats because when it suffered a rout in south Bengal in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls at the hands of the Trinamool Congress, the four districts, known as the red fort, rebuffed the winds of change blowing across Bengal.

Tomorrow"s election in these districts will be a test for the Front"s ability to block the threatened inroads by the Trinamool Congress.

Of the 38 seats, 12 are in West Midnapur, five in Purulia, nine in Bankura and 12 in Burdwan district.

The Left Front is contesting all the 38 seats while Trinamool Congress has fielded candidates in 33 and alliance partner Congress in five. The BJP has fielded candidates in all the seats.

Tight security arrangements have been made for peaceful polling with deployment of around 600 companies of central paramilitary forces besides state forces, election office sources here said.

Altogether 9,425 polling stations have been set-up. The Maoist problem figured prominently in the election campaign by both the LF and TC-Congress combine in the fifth phase.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee while campaigning at Jhargram in West Midnapur district where Lalgarh is situated, alleged that if Trinamool Congress wins, Maoists would raise their heads again. Voting for the Trinamool Congress meant meant voting for the Maoists.

Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, on the other hand, alleged that the Maoist problem was created by the CPI(M).

Ms. Banerjee also played the development card promising industry, educational institutes and hospitals.

Senior Congress leader and Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee urged Maoists to shun violence and sit for talks to settle their demands.

The high voltage campaign also witnessed Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram canvassing for the alliance at Keshpur and Garbeta in West Midnapur district, during which he flayed the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government for its alleged shoddy record on the law and order front.


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