Kolkata: As the movement of polling personnel began early Friday for their respective voting centers, the deployment of a record 1,071 companies of central armed forces was also in place for the 5th phase polling as some 1.12 crore electorate are expected to cast their vote to elect 45 representatives among 319 candidates in six districts of West Bengal.
After the Sitalkuchi incident in the previous phase on April 10 where four people were killed when the CISF opened firing in self defence and to save EVMs from being looted, the Election Commission this time was taking extra precaution to ensure free and fearless voting among the electorate.
Among the total 1.12 crore voters, about 55,80000 are women voters in the six districts of North Pargana Part I, Darjeeling, Nadia Part I, Kalimpong, East Bardhaman Part I and Jalpaiguri.
The ECI, however, would use 853 companies of central armed forces for the 5th phase and rest would be kept in reserve.
69 companies have been deployed at Barasat, 61 in Barackpore, 107 for Basirhat, 46 for Bidhannagar, 68 for Darjeeling, 21 for Kalimpong, 122 for Jalpaiguri,11 for Krishnagar, 155 for East Bardhamanm, 140 for Ranaghat and 53 for Siliguri.
Altogether 15,789 polling booths have been set up and each booth will be manned by an ASI and four armed constables.
Among the 319 contestants, a number of sitting ministers like Jyotipriya Mallick, Gautam Deb, Bratya Basu, Sujit Bose, former minister Madan Mitra, BJP’s Mukul Roy, Rahul Sinha, Samik Bhattacharya, Sabyasachi Dutta ,CPI(M) Ashoke Bhattachrya would join the fray.
Bharatiya Janata Party is contesting for all the 45 seats while ruling AITC is contesting 42. Congress, Left parties and their alliance partner Indian Secular Front are fighting under the banner of Sanyukta Morcha. BSP has fielded 32 candidates, CPI (M) 25, Congress – 11, AIFB – two, RSP, NPP and CPI one each while there are 83 independents along with 76 others are also in the fray.
The Chief Election Commissioner of West Bengal on Thursday directed officials and all the political parties to ensure strict compliance of the COVID-19 guidelines ahead of the fifth phase of polling.
The officials were asked to ensure that voters maintain at least 2-feet distance at the polling booths in the wae of worsening COVID-19 situation.
The state election also called an party meeting later today to discuss the covid-19 situation in the remaining four phases of poll.
The Election Commission came under strong criticism of the TMC, with chief minister Mamata Banerjee demanding to club three the remaining polls together to protect the people.
Ms Banerjee said they did not want an 8-phase poll. “Amid an ongoing pandemic, we firmly opposed EC’s decision to conduct West Bengal polls in eight phases. Now, in view of the huge surge in Covid-19 cases, I urge the ECI to consider holding the remaining phases in one go. This will protect the people from further exposure to Covid-19.” said Ms Banerjee.