Of the 11 assembly constituencies of Birbhum that are set to go to polls in the second phase on Saturday, the spotlight is firmly on Nalhati and Nanoor. An estimated 21,93,894 voters of the district would exercise their franchise at 2627 booths.
The second phase would see 56 nominees across the political divide facing the trial of strength in the battle for ballot.
Nalhati has emerged as a prestige battle for the Congress, with Abhijit Mukherjee, son of union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, contesting the seat. Albeit a greenhorn in politics, the state and district Congress leadership is going all out to ensure he returns a favourable mandate in the poll slugfest.
Prominent leaders of the Congress and ally Trinamool Congress have been seen pitching for the rookie Congress nominee. Besides the finance minister, the likes of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress MP Mausam Benazir Noor and Trinamool MP Tapas Paul visited Nalhati to lend the necessary impetus to the Congress poll campaign.
The spotlight would also be trained on Nanoor, which is held as one of the most volatile regions of the state and has seen regular skirmishes for territorial control between CPI(M) and Trinamool. The CPI(M) has the onerous task of overcoming the ignominy of a court sentencing 44 of its workers to life imprisonment in the connection with the brutal killings of 11 Trinamool supporters at Suchpur, and yet support the families of those convicted. The local Left leadership is doing its best to project a clean image before the electorate in its stronghold Birbhum, and yet support the families of the 44 convicts in the legal proceedings.
"We know the task is difficult. But we can't forsake our party workers in Nanoor, just because a lower court convicted them. We have already moved Calcutta high court for bail. We will help them in their legal battle," said Dilip Ganguly, the CPI(M) district secretary.