Kolkata: Voting begins for the 56 Assembly segments of West Bengal, most of them in the northern part are going to the polls in the second phase, may pose the toughest challenge for the ruling Trinamool Congress.
While the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) remains the strongest contender in the three seats in Darjeeling hills — Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong, Bimal Gurung’s party will face a tough challenge from the TMC and from its dissidents like Harka Bahadur Chettri.
Downside the hills, Communist Party of India (Marxist) heavyweight Asok Bhattacharya will be taking on footballer Baichung Bhutia in Siliguri, contending on TMC ticket.
In the tea gardens in Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar district with a significant tribal population, the stage is set for a tough fight between the Left Front and the Trinamool Congress. The Congress now in alliance with the Left Front, has a significant presence in some pockets. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hoping that seats such as Madarihaat and Kalchini will vote in their favour.
Polling will be held on nearly 45 seats in north Bengal, 5 in Alipurduar, 7 in Jalpaiguri, 9 in north Dinajpur, 6 each in Darjeeling and South Dinajpur and 12 in Malda. The only south Bengal district that is going to polls in this phase is Birbhum with 11 constituencies.
As many as 1,21,74,947 voters across 13,645 polling stations will decide the fate of 383 candidates. There are 33 women candidates in the fight.
Before this phase, a full Bench of the Election Commission headed by Chief Election Commission (CEC) Nasim Zaidi visited to Kolkata and announced measures to ensure free and fair polls.
West Bengal over the years: