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Sukumar Debnath, Hindustan Times
Kolkata, April 25, 2011
Over the last couple weeks in the run-up to the third phase of polls scheduled for Wednesday, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, arch political adversaries and the principal campaigners for their respective parties, have featured in 105 public meetings and scores more padayatras and road shows across the state.

While the Trinamool chief might have attended more public meetings, the chief minister has outscored her in terms of road shows and workers’ meets. Both are carrying the burden of expectations of their respective affiliates in the electoral slugfest, billed as make or break for either of them.

While the feisty Trinamool chief has attended 76 public rallies over the last couple of weeks, Bhattacharjee comes a distant second with 29. The campaigning for the third phase of polls is scheduled to end at 4pm on Monday. “Since Mamata Banerjee has been travelling in a helicopter, she has managed to attend more public meetings to date. She has invested a lot of energy and resources in the campaign. However, we have several other competent leaders to lend the necessary thrust to our campaign,” said a party insider refusing to be named.

The Trinamool chief hit the campaign trail with a mass rally at Habibpur in Malda on April 10 before proceeding to Manikchak and Malatipur in the same district on the day. Bhattacharjee, on the same day, was largely confined to his constituency Jadavpur and attended 10 workers’ meetings there.

Later on April 13, the chief minister presided over two public meetings at Ramgarh in Jadavpur and at Rathtala, Kasba. However, he formally hit the campaign trail on March 8, addressing two meetings at Metiabruz and Jadavpur, from where he is contesting the polls.

However, the meetings ground to a temporary halt shortly after in line with a high court directive, banning the use of microphones till April 10 in view of the board examinations. With the meetings being postponed following the court order, both leaders promptly switched to road shows.