April 26, 2021 4:39:42 am
Amid a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases in the state, elections to 34 Assembly seats in Murshidabad, Paschim Bardhaman, Malda, Dakshin Dinajpur and Kolkata South will be held in the seventh phase on Monday.
There are 268 candidates in the fray — 37 of them women — with heavyweight candidates such as state ministers Firhad Hakim (Kolkata Port) and Subrata Mukherjee (Ballygunge, Kolkata) and Malay Ghatak (Asansol Uttar, Paschim Bardhaman), Sovondev Chattopadhyay (Bhabanipur, Kolkata) among them. Chattopadhyay is facing a challenge from actor Rudranil Ghosh of the BJP. The Opposition party has fielded economist Ashok Lahiri from Balurghat (Dakshin Dinajpur), while former Asansol Mayor Jitendra Tiwari is contesting from Pandabeswar (Paschim Bardhaman). CPI(M) central committee member Abhas Roy Chowdhury is contesting from Durgapur Purba (Paschim Bardhaman), while JNU student leader Aishe Ghosh is fighting to retain Jamuria (Paschim Bardhaman) for the Left party. Fashion designer and BJP leader Agnimitra Paul is up against actor and Trinamool Congress (TMC) candidate Saayoni Ghosh in Asansol Dakshin.
While 36 constituencies were earlier set to go to the polls in the seventh phase, the elections in Jangipur and Samserganj in Murshidabad district were deferred following the deaths of two candidates. They will now vote on May 16 and the results will be declared three days later. Almost all the districts where elections will be held have reported a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases in recent days. The Election Commission (EC) on Saturday held a meeting with the state’s top brass to review the preparations for ensuring Covid safety norms are followed during polling. The meeting was held days after the Calcutta High Court expressed dissatisfaction with the EC about the enforcement of Covid safety norms during campaigning.
The Commission has instructed all stakeholders, including the state police, central forces and polling officers, to adhere to “Covid-appropriate behaviour” at all cost. Following the EC’s directions, nodal health officers have been assigned for each Assembly segment. The chief medical officers of health (CMOHs) are also the nodal health officers for their district.
The state authorities have sanitised polling stations. Voters will not be allowed to enter the premises without masks. They will be provided hand gloves, with elaborate arrangements made for the collection and disposal of the gloves after use.
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