Kolkata: The intensely contested Lok Sabha battle in West Bengal is set to witness some big fights that would determine the fortune of several star candidates, including two Union Ministers, in the fourth phase on Monday, when eight seats are up for grabs on Monday.
The poll caravan would complete its lap of Murshidabad district, and roll into Nadia – the birthplace of Vaishnava saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu – before traversing what is considered the rice bowl of India – Burdwan East and Burdwan West districts.
Also on the poll bandwagon is Birbhum district – that houses the Visva Bharati University set up by Asia’s first Nobel laureate poet Rabindra Nath Tagore – with its two seats.
An electorate of 1,34,28,693, spread across 15,277 polling stations, will decide the fate of 68 candidates in Jangipur, Krishnanagar, Ranaghat, Burdwan East, Burdwan-Durgapur, Asansol, Birbhum and Bolpur constituencies.
The elections are taking place six days after the third phase polls, when a Congress activist died during a political clash at Bhagwangola of Murshidabad district.
In the wake of the first polling related death in the state this time, the Election Commission has decided to deploy 552 companies of central paramilitary force personnel, covering 97 per cent of polling stations for the fourth phase.
In the last general election, the Trinamool romped to victory in half a dozen seats – Krishnanagar, Ranaghat, Burdwan East, Burdwan-Durgapur, Birbhum and Bolpur. Congress had triumphed in Baharampur, while the Asansol seat went to the BJP.
Leading the pack of star constituencies is Asansol, where Union Minister and sitting BJP MP Babul Supriyo – a singer-turned-politician – is facing a challenge from Trinamool’s Moon Moon Sen, yesteryear’s actress and daughter of Bengali screen legend Suchitra Sen.
Sen, who pulled off a big upset by prevailing over CPI-M veteran Basudeb Acharia in Bankura five years back, has been shifted to Asanol by Chief Minister and Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee to give a tough time to Supriyo. The CPI-M and Congress have also put up candidates.
Supriyo is, however, confident of retaining his seat.
“I have done lot of work in Asansol. As a minister in (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi ji’s cabinet, I could really build the bridge between Asansol and Delhi. I am confident about my victory here but not complacent. That’s why I am campaigning every day,” he said.
Sen, on the other hand, promises to champion environmental issues in highly-polluted Asansol.
“If I become an MP again, I would like to work on improving the environment and providing better medical care,” she said.
Neighbouring Asansol is another high profile seat – Burdwan-Durgapur – from where the BJP has fielded Union Minister and Darjeeling MP S.S. Ahluwalia against Trinamool contestant and incumbent MP Mumtaz Sanghamitra.
In all his meetings, Ahluwalia is promising to restore the area’s golden past.
“Under the Left regime and current Trinamool rule, the resources of the area have been destroyed. We will introduce all the central schemes started by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for development of rural and urban Burdwan and industrial area of Durgapur,” Ahluwalia said.
In Baharampur, former Union Minister and former state Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury is bidding for his fifth straight win over candidates of the BJP and the Trinamool. The Revolutionary Socialist Party has also nominated Eid Mohammed, but he is not being backed by the Left Front, which is supporting Chowdhury.
Chowdhury, affectionately called “Robinhood of Murshidabad” by his supporters for standing by the needy, said the people would vote for the Congress for the consistent development projects that he has initiated in the area.
In Krishnanagar, erstwhile investment banker Mahua Moitra of the Trinamool is up against former India football goalkeeper Kalyan Chaubey.
Another yesteryear’s actress Satabdi Roy is seeking re-election from Birbhum constituency on a Trinamool ticket.
Out of the 15,277 polling stations, 1,844 are in Bahrampur, 1,812 in Krishnanagar, 1,971 in Ranaghat, 2,006 in Burdwan-Durgapur, 1,919 in Burdwan East, 1,860 in Asansol, 1,957 in Bolpur and 1,908 in Birbhum.
According to an analysis done by the West Bengal Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms, 22 candidates have assets worth over Rs 1 crore, with 14 declaring criminal cases against them.
The subsequent phases of polling will be held on May 6, 12 and 19. Polling for the Cooch Behar and Alipurduar constituencies took place in the first phase on April 11, while Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Raiganj voted on April 18. In the third phase, on April 23, Balurghat, Malda North, Malda South, Jangipur and Murshidabad went to the hustings.
The vote count is on May 23.