Voting for 56 seats in the second phase of West Bengal Assembly polls began Sunday morning amidst tight security.
Over 1.2 crore electorate will decide the political fates of 383 candidates, including 33 women, in six north Bengal districts of Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur, Malda and Birbhum in south Bengal.
In Birbhum district, a total seven constituencies – Dubrajpur, Suri, Nalhati, Rampurhat, Sainthia, Hansan and Murarai have been classified as left-wing extremism affected and polling there will be held from 7 AM to 4 PM.
Elaborate multi-tier security arrangements have been made in these areas, Election Commission officials said.
In the remaining constituencies voting will conclude at 6 PM.
The EC had showcaused Trinamool Congress chief and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for violating the model code of conduct by making certain utterances in her poll meetings. She has in turn criticised the poll watchdog.
Another TMC leader Anubrata Mandal, who is the Birbhum district party president, has been kept under 24×7 surveillance by the central police force on the ECs orders after a censure failed to discourage him from violating the model code of conduct.
High-profile electoral battle in this phase would be witnessed at Siliguri where its mayor and former CPI-M minister Ashok Bhattacharya is contesting against former Indian football captain and TMC candidate Bhaichung Bhutia.
State ministers Gautam Deb, Krishnendu Narayan Chowdhury and Sabitri Mitra are also in the poll fray in this phase of election.
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Soumitra Ray, singer of popular Bengali band ‘Bhoomi’, actors Joy Banerjee and Locket Chatterjee and singer Suman Banerjee are also trying their luck in the world of politics.
Out of over 13,600 polling stations where voting will be conducted during the day, EC has identified 2909 of them as vulnerable and extra precaution has been taken to ensure free and fair elections. The highest number of such vulnerable booths are in Malda and Uttar Dinajpur districts.
Over 3800 trouble mongers have been identified from whom the vulnerable voters say they face threat or intimidation. EC officials said all of them have been “bound down” and preventive action taken.
For the voting process, 15,962 EVMs and 1968 VVPATs, including reserved ones, have been arranged.
All polling premises are being guarded by central police forces, while the state personnel will facilitate queue management. They will be allowed to enter the booth only under extreme cases where the presiding officer asks him to enter.
The outer layer of security will comprise of quick response teams, flying squads, sector forces, and mobile high radio flying squads. Altogether there are about 700 mobile surveillance personnel, the EC officials said.