Polling for the crucial third phase of West Bengal Assembly election for 62 seats, including seven constituencies in Kolkata, will be held on Thursday.
Over 1.37 crore electorate will seal the fate of 418 candidates, including 34 females, who are in the fray during third phase of elections for 62 seats spread over Murshidabad, Nadia, Burdwan districts and north Kolkata.
Key candidates in this phase include Trinamool ministers Shashi Panja and Sadhan Pande, BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha, five-time Congress MLA Md Sohrab, CPI-M MLA Anisur Rahman and retired IPS officer Nazrul Islam.
All 22 constituencies are going to the hustings in Murshidabad, regarded as a bastion of the Congress, and particularly of its state president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.
Besides, the entire lot of 17 constituencies in Nadia will also be up for grabs. Seven seats in north Kolkata and 16 in Burdwan complete the list.
Murshidabad is a crucial test for the newly formed Congress-Left Front alliance, with the partners locked in a fight among themselves in 10 of the 22 constituencies.
Congress candidates are up against Revolutionary Socialist Party nominees in five constituencies, and take on Communist Party of India-Marxist contestants in four and the All India Forward Bloc in one seat.
Close fights are also on the cards at Nadia, where the alliance has achieved unity in all but the Krishnaganj seat -- that pits the Congress against the CPI-M.
The erstwhile ‘red fort’ of Burdwan, that collapsed like a pack of cards in the Trinamool surge in 2011, when the Left Front was ousted from power in the state, is also likely to witness a see-saw battle between the alliance and the Trinamool. Nine constituencies of the district had voted on April 11.
The Trinamool Congress is hoping big on the seven seats in Kolkata north, but the alliance is also keen to pull up some surprises.
In the assembly polls in the 62 constituencies five years back, then allies Trinamool and Congress had captured 45 seats, with the Trinamool taking 29 and the Congress 16.
Among the Left Front partners, the CPI-M had won 14, and the Revolutionary Socialist Party, Samajwadi Party and All India Forward Bloc one each.
Of the 418 candidates in the fray, 61 are crorepatis, 80 have criminal cases against them, with 65 of them declaring serious criminal offences like murder and rape against their name.
A tight security ring of one lakh security personnel, including 75,000 central paramilitary forces, has been deployed in election-bound areas.
Election Commission officials said 714 companies of central armed police force, comprising around 75,000 personnel, have taken their positions.
As per instruction, central forces are doing route marches as part of area domination exercise to instil confidence among voters.
Some of the personnel who were posted for the fourth phase have also been shifted to the areas going to the polls on Thursday.
So far, voters in 105 of the total 294 constituencies have exercised their right to franchise on three dates -- April 4, 11 and 17 -- in the first two phases.
West Bengal is having a staggered six-phase election. Polling for the remaining phases will be held on April 25, 30 and May 5.