Campaigning ends for Kolkata civic polls

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Kolkata, April 16: Amid political violence and trading of allegations, the campaigning for the April 18 Kolkata Municipal Corporation polls ended on Thursday.

The four major parties -- the Trinamool Congress, the Congress, the Communist Party of India-Marxist-led Left Front and the Bharatiya Janata Party -- are in the fray for all the 144 wards. [Trinamool set to sweep Kolkata civic polls: Survey]

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A total of 37,42,019 voters would exercise their franchise across 4,704 polling stations to decide the fate of 1075 candidates. The counting of votes is scheduled for April 28. [BJP fields 58 women for Kolkata civic polls]

Among the star campaigners, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee led the campaign for the Trinamool Congress, while for the BJP union minister Babul Supriyo, actress-turned-politician Roopa Ganguly and national secretary Siddharth Nath Singh were at the forefront.

For the Left Front, the main campaigners were CPI-M state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra and LF chairman Biman Bose, while for the Congress, state president Adhir Chowdhury was the face of the party. [Left Front announces candidates for Kolkata civic polls]

Accusing the Trinamool of unleashing a reign of terror, the BJP, Congress and the Left Front have claimed that efforts were on to turn the polls into a farce.

Refuting their allegation, the ruling party has been accusing the opposition of disturbing the peaceful atmosphere of the state.

Exuding confidence, former chief minister and CPI-M veteran Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee called upon his party supporters to stand against the Trinamool which was "resorting to violence".

"Politically cornered, the Trinamool is trying to create an atmosphere of fear by resorting to violence and terror. Consequently there is apprehension among people whether we will be able to stand against this," Bhattacharjee said in a statement on Thursday.

"Only we can counter this. We have to stand against this with all our organisational might. It's the common people who will decide, fear cannot deter us," said Bhattacharjee.

Holding protest rallies against the "Trinamool-unleashed" violence, the BJP has expressed apprehension that the polls may not be free or fair.

"There is widespread violence, our people are constantly being attacked by the Trinamool. Even the police are turning a blind eye and many of them are acting as Trinamool cadres," Babul Supriyo said.

"In such a scenario, we don't see much of hope for free and fair elections," he added.

During the last day of the campaigning, Mamata Banerjee led a march across the city accompanied by several of her ministerial colleagues and Bengali superstar and Trinamool MP Deepak Adhikari, popularly known as Dev.

Calling upon the people to defeat the slander campaign and propaganda against her party, Banerjee said people will teach lesson to those who gave the slogan "Bhaag Mamata Bhaag".

"Some parties exist only in TV studios. It is not possible to capture Bengal by sitting in Delhi," said Banerjee, referring to the BJP's Siddharth Nath Singh's slogan and ridiculing the Trinamool over the multi-crore-rupee Saradha scam in which the Central Bureau of Investigation has arrested several Trinamool leaders.

IANS

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