West Bengal Assembly Elections | 35 constituencies to go to polls in final phase

Over 84 lakh voters will decide the political fate of 283 candidates.

Thirty-five Assembly constituencies go to the polls in the eighth and final phase in West Bengal on Thursday. Over 84 lakh voters will decide the political fate of 283 candidates.

Security measures have been heightened in view of the violence in the previous phases, particularly the death of five people in Cooch Behar in the fourth round on April 10, an Election Commission official said.

The poll panel has decided to deploy at least 641 companies of Central forces, including 224 in Birbhum district, to ensure free and fair voting, he said.

Two Ministers — Shashi Panja and Sadhan Pandey — are contesting from Shyampukur and Maniktala seats in north Kolkata respectively.

Three-cornered contests are expected in many of the 17 constituencies in Malda and Murshidabad districts — a stronghold of the Left-Congress-ISF combine apart from the TMC and the BJP.

The poll panel will also put in place measures to ensure strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols during the voting process, the official said.

West Bengal on Tuesday logged 16,403 COVID-19 cases, the highest-single day spike recorded in the State so far, pushing the tally to 7,76,345, the Health Department said.

The toll climbed to 11,082 with 73 more fatalities, it said.

Campaigning for the final phase has been a low-key affair, following curbs imposed by the EC in the wake of the second wave of COVID-19.

The EC has banned roadshows and vehicle rallies and noted that the COVID safety norms were being flouted in West Bengal during campaigning.

It also disallowed any public meeting with more than 500 people.

Leaders of political parties chose either the virtual platform or small street-corner meetings for campaigning, which ended on April 26 evening.

TMC supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accused the Centre of mishandling the second wave and providing inadequate vaccines to the State.

BJP president J.P. Nadda denied Ms. Banerjee’s allegations and attacked her for not attending the crucial meetings convened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the pandemic situation.

Mondal under watch

Meanwhile, all eyes will be on Trinamool Congress Birbhum district president Anubrata Mondal, who he is under the strict surveillance of the Election Commission. Mr. Mondal has been placed under surveillance till Friday 7 a.m., as the chief electoral officer has received “several complaints against him”, an EC official said.

The TMC leader was placed under similar surveillance during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the 2016 Assembly polls.

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