5th phase of Bengal polls: Hill districts in fray; TMC, BJP aim to secure foothold
The fifth phase of the West Bengal Assembly Election 2021 will be held on Saturday, April 17, across 45 constituencies spread over six districts. The polling for phases 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the state elections took place on March 27, April 1, and April 6, and April 10, respectively. The campaigning for the fifth phase ended at 6pm on Wednesday, as the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continued trading blows over the recent killings of four men by central security personnel at Cooch Behar's Sitalkuchi, where polls were held last Saturday.
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As many as 319 candidates, including 39 women, are in the fray in this phase of the West Bengal assembly elections. One-fourth of the total candidates have declared criminal cases against themselves, according to a report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). The fifth phase is crucial for TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, since these are the regions where the BJP gained a significant foothold in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, with the opposition party securing 45% vote share compared to TMC's 41.5%. However, in terms of seats, the TMC was leading in 23 of these seats, while the BJP was leading in the remaining 22.
This phase also includes the hill districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, where shifting equations with the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) may open up new electoral possibilities this year. On the other hand, the Sanyukta Morcha, consisting of the Left Front and the Congress have also joined hands with Abbas Siddiqui's Indian Secular Front (ISF) to regain lost fronts in several of the districts in the fray.
The last three remaining phases of the West Bengal assembly elections will be conducted on April 22, April 26, and April 29. Votes will be counted on May 2.
45 assembly constituencies in 6 districts
In Phase 5 of the West Bengal assembly elections, 45 seats across five districts -- Jalpaiguri, Kalimpong, Darjeeling, Nadia, North 24 Parganas, and Purba Bardhaman -- go into polls. These are further divided as follows:
7 seats in Jalpaiguri -- Dhupguri, Maynaguri, Jalpaiguri, Rajganj, Dabgram-Phulbari, Mal, and Nagrakata.
1 seat in Kalimpong -- Kalimpong.
5 seats in Darjeeling -- Darjeeling, Kurseong, Matigara-Naxalbari, Siliguri, and Phansidewa.
8 seats in Nadia -- Santipur, Ranaghat Uttar Paschim, Krishnaganj, Ranaghat Uttar Purba, Ranaghat Dakshin, Chakdaha, Kalyani, and Haringhata.
16 seats in North 24 Parganas -- Panihati, Kamarhati, Baranagar, Dum Dum, Rajarhat New Town, Bidhannagar, Rajarhat Gopalpur, Madhyamgram, Barasat, Deganga, Haroa, Minakhan, Sandeshkhali, Basirhat Dakshin, Basirhat Uttar, and Hingalganj.
8 seats in Purba Bardhaman district -- Khandaghosh, Bardhaman Dakshin, Raina, Jamalpur, Manteswar, Kalna, Memari, and Bardhaman Uttar.
The TMC and the BJP are contesting all the 45 assembly seats in Phase 5 of the West Bengal polls.
From the Sanyukta Morcha, the CPI-M is contesting 19 seats -- Dhupguri, Rajganj, Dabgram-Fulbari, Mal, Siliguri, Ranaghat Dakshin, Chakdaha, Kalyani, Kamarhati, Dum Dum, Rajarhat New Town, Rajarhat Gopalpur, Minakhan, Khandaghosh, Bardhaman Dakshin, Raina, Kalna, Memari, and Bardhaman Uttar.
Congress is contesting seven seats -- Jalpaiguri, Nagrakata, Matigara-Naxalbari, Phansidewa, Ranaghat Uttar Paschim, Panihati, and Basirhat Dakshin.
Siddiqui's Indian Secular Front (ISF) will be contesting three seats -- Haroa, Sandeshkhali, and Basirhat Uttar.
Forward Bloc is contesting one seat -- Barasat
The Communist Party of India (CPI) is contesting one seat -- Hingalganj.
The Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) is contesting one seat -- Maynaguri.
The Marxist Forward Bloc (MFB) is contesting one seat -- Jamalpur.
The Sanyukta Morcha has not fielded any candidates in 12 seats -- Kalimpong, Darjeeling, Kurseong, Santipur, Krisnaganj, Ranaghat Uttar Purba, Haringhata, Baranagar, Bidhannagar, Madhyamgram, Deganga, and Monteswar.
A few of the notable candidates this time are as follows:
1. Constituency: Kamarhati (North 24 Parganas)
Candidate: Madan Mitra (TMC)
Trinamool Congress candidate and maverick politician Madan Mitra is almost a household name in Bengal at this point for his tendency to make it to the news headlines frequently over the years, be it for his alleged involvement with the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam for which he remained imprisoned for a year or celebrating Holi with three actor-turned-BJP nominees aboard a vessel on the river Hooghly. Although Mitra had lost the Kamarhati seat to CPI(M) leader Manash Mukherjee last year by a margin of just 4198 votes, the veteran TMC leader and former minister in the state government has geared up in time, aiming to recover the constituency that he had won back in 2011.
2. Constituency: Siliguri (Darjeeling)
Candidate: Ashok Bhattacharya (CPI-M)
Veteran CPI(M) leader and former mayor of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation, Ashok Bhattacharya, will once again be contesting the assembly polls from his native seat of Siliguri. Bhattacharya, a prominent CPI(M) leader in north Bengal and a former minister of the state government, had made headlines in the 2016 assembly elections after defeating the TMC candidate and former Indian football team captain Bhaichung Bhutia by a margin of 14,072 votes. Bhattacharya got a total of 78,054 votes (47.2% of the votes), while Bhaichung Bhutia had secured 63,982 votes (38.7% of the votes).
3 . Constituency: Baranagar (North 24 Parganas)
Candidate: Parno Mittra (BJP)
Actor-turned-politician Parno Mittra has been fielded by the BJP from the Baranagar assembly constituency this year, marking Mittra's maiden appearance as an election candidate. She was catapulted to stardom after enacting Ranjana in Anjan Dutta's National Award-winning Bengali film Ranjana Ami Ar Ashbona (2011). After she joined the BJP, the opposition party has pitted her against state minister Tapas Roy, a veteran at Baranagar. Roy had won the 2016 elections from the seat upstaging RSP's Sukumar Ghosh by a margin of 16,100 votes.
Past polling trends
Ahead of Phase 5 of the West Bengal Assembly Election 2021, here are the results of the past polls in these 45 assembly seats.
Of the 45 seats going to polls on Saturday, the TMC won 32 in the 2016 assembly elections—six in Jalpaiguri, five in Nadia, 14 in North 24 Parganas, and seven in Purba Bardhaman. The Left Front and Congress alliance secured 10 seats—one in Jalpaiguri, three in Darjeeling, three in Nadia, two in North 24 Parganas and one in Purba Bardhaman. The GJM, a key ally of the BJP in the hills then, won three seats—the only one in the Kalimpong district as well as two seats in the Darjeeling district.
In the 2011 state assembly elections, TMC won 26 of these seats—two in Jalpaiguri, one in Darjeeling, seven in Nadia, 12 in North 24 Parganas and four seats in Purba Bardhaman. The Left Front and Congress alliance won 16 seats—five in Jalpaiguri, two in Darjeeling, one in Nadia, four in North 24 Parganas, and four in Purba Bardhaman. The three other seats were won by the GJM—the Kalimpong seat and two seats in Darjeeling.