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Poll campaign for first phase ends amid Maoist threats in Bengal

Written by: Staff
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Kolkata, Apr 15 (UNI) Campaign for the first of the five-phase Assembly elections to 45 seats in three districts of West Bengal ended today with fears of Maoist disturbance looming large.

The state goes for its first of the multi-phase Assembly elections on April 17 with polling being held in Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore districts in south Bengal, considered to be the hotbed of the Maoist ultras.

Running their writ in certain pockets of inaccessible areas bordering Jharkhand, the Maoists had killed a number of policemen and CPI(M) activists in recent times and called for boycotting polls in some areas.

With a state Pollution Control Board ban on the use of microphone till April 13 evening, the region witnessed a very brief campaign that ended before reaching a high pitch.

However, trying to make the best use of the last three days, political parties held a series of public rallies to woo the voters.

Chief Minister Buddadeb Bhattacharjee was the first to address an election rally at Purulia on April 13, immediately followed by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.

The Chief Minister, who also addressed another election meeting at Bankura yesterday, dared the Maoists on their very stronghold, vowing to wipe out Left extremism in South Bengal and appealed to the people to vote without fear.

Seeking to charge up voters in the face of Maoist violence and the call for boycotting polls in some areas of Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore districts, Mr Bhattacharjee asserted that his police would match the firepower of the underground outfits and the party would fight a political battle to script a defeat of the extremists in the state.

With a thrust on development, he called for more industry and more employment in the state and asked the people to vote for the Left Front.

Alleging that while the Opposition Congress had done nothing for the people during its rule before the Left came to power, he said Ms Banerjee's Trinamool was trying to stall development.

However, addressing a series of meetings in the three districts, Ms Banerjee alleged that the state had lost work culture and industry had come to the downhill under the Left rule. Alleging CPI(M) atrocities and misrule, she urged the people to remove the Government ruling the state for 29 years.

CPI(M) State Committee Secretary Biman Bose, Industry Minister Nirupam Sen and party's Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat campaigned in favour of the Left candidates, while Pradesh Congress Committee president Pranab Mukherjee, BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley, Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda and former Union Minister Shibu Soren were among those who campaigned for their party candidates.

Besides the Congress and the Trinamool, the Jharkhand Party commands a sizeable following in the region, adjoining the tribal state.

Altogether 227 candidates, including 26 women, representing 45 constituencies will try their luck in the first phase. More than 6.8 million electorate, including over 3.3 million women, will cast votes in the three districts.

Polling will take place in 7478 regular polling stations and 438 auxillary polling stations across the three districts, for which 7911 EVMs are being used. Besides, this 1583 EVMs have been kept as reserve in case any of the machines malfunction during the polls.

While West Midnapore will have polls for 21 constituencies, including the sensitive ones in Keshpur, Pingla, Debra and Garbetta (East and West), Bankura goes to poll for 13 constituencies, including Ranibandh (ST), Taldanga and Raipur (ST) and Purulia for 11, including Bandowan, Jhalda and Jaypur and Arsa.

Three constituencies in Purulia - Asra, Jaipur and Hura - have maximum number of 10 candidates fighting it out for the polls. The Medinipur constinuency in East Midnapore district is considered to be the largest constituency with over 1.8 million voters. There are, however, no straight fights in any of the constituencies. While three constituencies will see the highest of 10 candidates fighting for the seat, the lowest number of candidates are three for eight constituencies.

Altogether 300 companies of para-military forces would man the polling stations in the three districts.

UNI BA-KDG SJC VD KN1814

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