Kolkatans will vote along with those living in the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans as 11 constituencies of West Bengal go to the polls in the final phase Wednesday, which will also decide Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee's political fate.
Concerned over the violence during
and after the second phase of polling in the state May 7, authorities have deployed a large number of securitymen for the final phase.
After the first two rounds in the state, the vote carnival now moves to the metropolis and its two adjoining districts of South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas - expected to see a no-holds-barred fight between the ruling Left Front and a resurgent Trinamool Congress in a zone where the opposition has done well of late.
The fate of 100 candidates, including Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee and eight other women, will be decided by 13.8 million electors across 17,136 polling booths spread over the three southern West Bengal districts, including this state capital.
Eyeing a sixth straight win, Banerjee is in the fray from her Kolkata South constituency against old foe Rabin Deb of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).
Also in the reckoning will be two former union ministers from Dum Dum - Trinamool's Sougata Roy and Tapan Sikdar of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) while Trinamool's singer-turned-politician Kabir Sumon tests the waters on his electoral debut from the city's outskirts in Jadavpur opposite sitting CPI-M MP Sujon Chakraborty.
Another stiff contest is likely in the newly-created Kolkata North constituency where CPI-M's deputy leader in the outgoing Lok Sabha Mohammed Salim is taking on former two-time MP Sudip Bandopadhyay of the Trinamool Congress.
With four people having died in violence during the May 7 polls, and 11 more dying in clashes after that, authorities have declared all booths in Kolkata and a majority of those in the other two districts "sensitive" and have pressed into service 250 companies of central police forces and 200 companies of state armed police.
The Election Commission has appointed eight additional observers to monitor polling in five seats - Barrackpore in North 24 Parganas, and Joynagar, Mathurapur, Jadavpore and Diamond Harbour in South 24 Parganas.
Fifty companies of the central forces are doing duty in Kolkata, and 100 companies each in the adjoining districts of South and North 24 Parganas.
Quick response teams will also be deployed, and check posts set up at ferry crossing points, railway stations and bridges.
Another challenge for the Election Commission is the smooth conduct of the poll process in the under-developed Sundarbans region, where thousands of voters will row through the narrow creeks and wide rivers that criss-cross the delta to exercise their franchise.
In the 2004 election, Left Front major CPI-M had won 10 of the 11 seats, with Banerjee retaining Kolkata South.
Of West Bengal's 42 seats, 11 went to the polls April 30 and 17 voted May 6.
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