Kolkata: Polling for the crucial third phase of West Bengal Assembly election for 62 seats, including seven constituencies in Kolkata, will be held on Thursday.
Over 13.7 million electorate will seal the fate of 418 candidates, including 34 female, who are in the fray during third phase of elections for 62 seats spread over Murshidabad, Nadia, Burdwan districts and north Kolkata.
A total of 13,713,594 voters, including 6,579,331 females, are registered to vote at these constituencies through 16,461 polling stations from 7am to 6pm.
Key candidates in this phase include Trinamool ministers Shashi Panja and Sadhan Pande, BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha, five-time Congress MLA Md Sohrab, CPI-M MLA Anisur Rahman and retired IPS officer Nazrul Islam.
The Election Commission has identified 3,401 hamlets in the phase as vulnerable. Based on complaints received from the electorate, 6,095 voters have been identified as vulnerable after which action has been taken by 4,094 trouble mongers.
Security forces have been strengthened with around 100,000 security personnel, including 75,000 central forces, spread all over the state.
When voters go out to exercise their franchise on Thursday, the scorching sun will be an issue as several districts are reeling under a heatwave. Even in the city where voting will be held in seven constituencies, the weatherman has predicted 39 degrees Celsius temperature on polling day.
Trinamool Congress, Left-Congress alliance and BJP have put up a fight in all the seats. Former minister Humayun Kabir, who was expelled from Trinamool Congress for six years for making anti-party statements, is in the fray from Rejinagar seat as an independent. Murshidabad district, which has been a Congress stronghold, will see five-time Congress MLA and former minister Abu Hena putting up a fight once again from Lalgola seat while party MLA Manoj Chakraborty is also in the fray from Beharampur.
Former investment banker Mahua Moitra, who left her lucrative job as vice-president of JP Morgan in London in 2008, has finally got a chance to prove her mettle in politics courtesy a Trinamool ticket from Karimpur seat in Nadia district.
Trinamool has been facing a rough time with the Election Commission as party chairman and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was showcaused by the poll panel over an alleged violation of the model code of conduct. EC has also transferred a number of IAS and IPS officers including Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar. Anubrata Mondal, Birbhum district president of the TMC, has been facing the wrath of the EC ever since the election began. In north Kolkata the Vivekananda flyover collapse which left 26 people killed on March 31 is also a big election issue.
In his campaign speeches, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh raised the issue of fake currency, infiltration and cow smuggling into India through the porous Indo-Bangladesh border. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi attacked both Trinamool and BJP for not taking action against the culprits involved in the Saradha scam and black money laundering. Feeling pressure over the Narada sting operation, the TMC chief said she would have "given a thought" before choosing her party candidates for the ongoing Assembly elections if the video tapes had been telecast earlier.