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Countdown begins for Bengal poll results

Written by: Staff
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Kolkata, May 10 (UNI) With less than 24 hours left for counting of votes in West Bengal, countdown begins for a people's mandate that will decide the fate of the state for the next five years.

As the state has been under Marxist rule for a record 29 years, the results of the elections will determine whether the CPI (M)-led Left Front retains power for the seventh consecutive term, especially under the growing influence of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

The marathon five-phase elections to 293 out of a total 294 Assembly seats were held between April 17 and May 8 with a whopping 82 per cent of the total 4,81,651,56 voters exercising their franchise.

Altogether 1654 candidates, including 137 women were in the fray in Kolkata and 18 districts.

Polling for Bhatpara constituency, which was countermanded following the death of a candidate, will be held on May 16.

Put at stake are the fates of 19 Ministers, including Mr Bhattacharjee and his cabinet colleagues Nirupam Sen, Asim Dasgupta, Surjyakanta Mishra, Manab Mukherjee, Ashok Bhattacharjee and Subhash Chakraborty besides Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim.

Prominent among others are Congress Legislature Party leader Atish Chandra Sinha, CPI (M) Chief Whip Rabin Deb and his counterparts Asit Mitra and Sovandeb Chatterjee of the Congress and Trinamool Congress respectively, former city Mayor Subrata Mukherjee and the Tollywood 'hero' and 'villain' Tapas Pal and Biplab Chatterjee, fighting a battle outside the silver screen as Trinamool Congress and CPI (M) nominee respectively.

With the opposition crying foul for long over alleged malpractices and 'scientific rigging' by the Left Front, for the first time the state witnessed a high surveillance of the Election Commission, taking up absolute control of the polls, held amid an unprecedented security.

Implementing almost the 'Bihar model,' the Commission left no stone unturned to ensure a 'free and fair' polling that the opposition alleged the state was lacking.

Starting with the removal of about 2.5 million names, said to be dead or shifted, from the electoral rolls and a ban on wall graffiti, the Commission initiated a string of rigorous measures, often bordering a clash with the Left Front.

The ruling coalition alleged that the names of several lakh genuine voters had been deleted from the voters list in the process of revision.

More than 60,000 para military force jawans were deployed in the state during all the phases to man each of the 54,000 booths and guard the vital installations while about 600 observers were pressed into service for strict monitoring of the whole process. The state police, though put on poll duty, were kept out of key responsibilities.

As the polls ended without a single complaint or incident of violence, the opposition iskeeping its fingers crossed over the outcome while the exit poll results predict a thumping majority for the Front.

In the 2001 elections, the Front had captured 199 seats while the Trinamool Congress cornered 54 and the Congress 36. The Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) and the Socialist Unity Centre (SUCI) got three and two seats respectively.

UNI KDG JYN MSJ ND1310

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