Kolkata: Three Lok Sabha constituencies in north Bengal – Jalpaiguri (SC), Darjeeling and Raiganj will go to the polls in the second phase of elections on Thursday.
The ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and the BJP are the main contenders in the three seats which will see a four-cornered contest between the two parties, the Congress and the Left Front.
The constituencies saw high profile campaigning by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, state Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, BJP president Amit Shah and Congress president Rahul Gandhi who raised a plethora of issues ranging from corruption to communalism, NRC to chitfund scams and development to security.
TMC has fielded Bijoy Chandra Barman against BJP’s Jayanta Kumar Roy in Jalpaiguri constituency, where Moni Kumar Darnal of Congress and Bhagirath Chandra Roy of CPI (M) are also in the fray.
In Darjeeling the TMC nominated Amar Singh Rai who will fight against Raju Bisht of BJP, Sankar Malakar of Congress and Saman Pathak of CPI(M).
TMC has nominated Kanhaiyalal Agarwal in Raiganj seat against Md Salim of CPI(M), Deepa Dasmunshi of Congress and Debashree Chowdhury of BJP.
The Jalpaguri seat is a reserved one as it has a large population of backward communities who work mainly in the tea gardens. There is also a sizeable chunk of Nepalis and people of the Rajbangshi community.
The poor condition of tea garden workers, specially the closure of several tea gardens will play a major role in the constiuency this election as also the politics relating to setting up of Jalpaiguri Circuit Bench of Calcutta High Court.
The picturesque Darjeeling Hills is geared for a pitched battle between two Gorkha leaders – Rai and Bisht with development and restoration of democracy as their top poll planks. The long-standing demand for a separate Gorkhaland has been relegated to the background.
Rai is the Trinamool Congress candidate and has the support on the Binay Tamang faction of the GJM. Bisht is on the other hand being supported by the Bimal Gurung faction of the GJM and GNLF who are stressing on minimum wages for tea workers, potable water, electricity, education and employment.
The Raiganj Lok Sabha seat, which was once a Congress stronghold, will see a four-cornered contest. This seat along with Murshidabad had been the bone of contention between Congress and the CPI-M in the futile seat sharing talks.
The EC has deployed 194 companies of central forces in the three constituencies to cover 80 per cent of the 5,390 booths for free and fair polling. Besides general election observers and expenditure observers, the poll panel has for the first time deployed a special police observer.
In another first, VVPAT will be used in all polling booths along with the EVMs, the EC sources said.