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Poll frenzy grip Bengal, 4 other states

Voting in Bengal for phase three of eight-phases ; single-phase polling in Tamil Nadu, Kerala,Puducherry; last leg in Assam

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

The stage is set for the busiest day of the ongoing election season with all the five states/union territories~ West Bengal, Kerala, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry ~ going to polls on 6 April.

The polling will be held in a single-phase in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry while Assam will witness its third and final round of voting on Tuesday. In Bengal, this will be the third round in the eight-phase elections ending 29 April.

The counting for all Assembly elections will take place on 2 May.

A three-cornered battle is on the cards in 31 Assembly seats~ 16 in South 24 Parganas (part II), seven in Howrah (part I) and eight in Hooghly (part I)~ that are set to go to polls on Tuesday in the third phase. The polling follows an angry showdown of the second phase on 1 April, which was dominated by the high-profile contest between chief minister Mamata Banerjee and BJP rival Suvendu Adhikari in Nandigram.

On 6 April, the BJP will seek to storm TMC fortresses while the Left Front- ISF-Congress alliance would hope to make inroads in areas where identity politics has come to the fore.

More than 78.5 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise and decide the fate of 205 candidates ~ prominent among them being BJP leader Swapan Dasgupta, TMC minister Ashima Patra and CPM leader Kanti Ganguly~ in three districts~ Howrah, Hooghly and South 24 Parganas.

Tight security arrangements have been made to ensure peaceful voting, with 618 companies of CAPF deployed to guard 10,871 polling stations, all of which have been marked “sensitive” by the Election Commission.

State police forces will also be deputed at strategic locations to aid the CAPF.

The TMC had won all but one seat of the 31 segments in the 2016 Assembly elections. The Congress had managed to bag Amta constituency in Howrah district.

The saffron party, however, outpassed the Left and the Congress to emerge as the main contender of the Mamata Banerjee-led party after the 2019 general election.

The Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha constituency, held by political heavyweight and TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee, will be keenly watched, as four of its seven Assembly segments will go to polls in the third phase, and the rest will follow suit in the fourth phase on 10 April.

The Indian Secular Front (ISF), floated by Peerzada Abbas Siddiqui, has turned out to be a thorn in the flesh for TMC, as the outfit holds sway in several parts of South 24 Parganas and Hooghly districts.

TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, having sensed the ISF’s potential to eat into her party’s minority vote base, had been hitting out at Siddiqui, alleging that he has been propped up by the BJP, a charge dismissed by the cleric, who is taking on the ruling party with vigour.

Adding to the ruling camp’s woes, the BJP has fielded sitting MLA and TMC turncoat Dipak Halder, who has considerable clout in the area.

Tamil Nadu:

After an intense poll campaign that saw the two main political parties – the ruling AIADMK and the Opposition DMK taking each other headon, all eyes are now on the voters as Tamil Nadu gears up for the single-phase polls today.

MK Stalin-led DMK, which is out of power since 2011 in the state, is in a headto- head battle with ruling party AIADMK led by chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami in nearly 130 constituencies.

This is also the first Assembly elections being held without two veterans of Tamil Nadu politics – M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa.

Kerala:

Kerala is all set to witness a high-profile battle between the ruling LDF and the opposition UDF as all 140 seats will go to polls on April 6. Since the 1980s, the LDF and UDF have alternatively formed the government with neither able to gain back-to-back victories in Kerala.

If the ruling front can manage to buck the trend in the state this time, it will be history. If not, then the Left rule will become history as Kerala is the last Red bastion in the country.

Assam:

Assam will witness the final leg of its three-phased elections on Tuesday.

This phase will decide the fate of 337 candidates across 40 constituencies of 12 districts in the state, including the senior minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma in the Jalukbari constituency.

Puducherry:

In Puducherry, the election in the 30-member Assembly will witness a keen contest between the Congress-led Secular Democratic alliance and the AINRC-led NDA.

~With inputs from Agencies~