171 candidates in the fray for 30 seats across four districts
Campaigning has wound down for 30 seats spread across four districts of West Bengal which go to polls on April 1. However, all eyes will be on one seat — Nandigram — where Trinamool Chief and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is contesting against former party colleague-turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari, who switched to the BJP just ahead of the polls.
Of the 30 seats nine each are in Purba Medinipur and Paschim Medinipur, eight in Bankura and four in South 24 Parganas. 171 candidates are in the fray, including 30 from the All India Trinamool Congress, 30 from the BJP, 15 from Communist Party of India (Marxist), two each from Communist Party of India and All India Forward Bloc and nine from the Congress. Eight seats including three in Paschim Medinipur and Bankura and one each in South 24 Parganas and Purba Medinipur are reserved as Scheduled Caste ( SC) candidates.
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75,94,549 voters will exercise their franchise across 10,620 polling booths, Election Commission sources said.
For the past three months since January 7, when the Chief Minister announced that she might contest from Nandigram, the constituency has been the centre of high voltage politics with the BJP fielding former TMC minister Suvendu Adhikari, who had represented the constituency for the past five years.
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The seat is being viewed as a ‘prestige fight’ among the two major political parties and has seen some of most frenetic campaigning that the State has witnessed. The drama was heightened after Ms Banerjee suffered a leg injury on March 10 during campaigning, which she has attributed to an ‘attack’ from ther rivals. She has continued to campaign in a wheelchair and has held almost a dozen public meetings and road shows in Nandigram, having stayed in the town over the past week.
On the other hand, seat has seen the presence of high profile campaigners from the BJP including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who held a rally at Kanthi in the Purba Medinipur and spoke about Nandigram, and Union Home Minister Amit Shah who participated in a road show on Tuesday as campiagning closed. The BJP has also roped star campaigners like Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and actor Mithun Chakraborty.
The other interesting constituencies up for grabs on April 1 are Kharagpur Sadar, Debra in Paschim Medinipur district, Bankura in Bankura district and Sagar in South 24 Parganas.
The Kharagpur Sadar seat, which BJP State president Dilip Ghosh won in 2016, was wrested by the Trinamool in a by-election in 2019, in spite of the BJP having a lead of over 45,000 votes in the Lok Sabha elections. The BJP has this time fielded actor Hiranmay Chattopadhyay, a former Trinamool youth leader.
The contest for the Debra seat has out turned out to be interesting with two former officers of the Indian Police Service — Humayun Kabir of Trinamool Congress and Bharati Ghosh of the BJP — competing against each other. The TMC had won this seat in 2016. Ms Ghosh who joined the BJP in 2019, contested the Ghatal Lok Sabha seat but lost to the TMC’s Deepak Adhikari. While Mr Kabir was senior to Ms. Ghosh in the police service, she is senior to him in politics. With stated assets of ₹19 crore, the former police chief of Paschim Medinipore is among the wealthiest candidates in the fray.
Another seat to look out for is Bankura where the TMC has fielded actor Sayantika Banerjee where BJP had a lead in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. She is up against Niladri Sekhar Dana of the BJP. In Sagar on the southernmost tip of West Bengal, three-time TMC MLA Bamkim Chandra Hazra is facing BJP new comer Bikash Chandra Kamila.
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