West Bengal elections: 1 killed before 6th phase polls
A young man died and explosions rocked south Bengal as the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) geared up for a close contest across 43 seats in the sixth phase of the ongoing assembly elections on Thursday.
Polling will be held in nine seats in North Dinajpur, nine in Nadia, 17 in North 24 Parganas and eight in East Burdwan district. Voting will take place amid an unprecedented spike in coronavirus infections with the state posting 10,784 cases and 58 deaths on Wednesday.
TMC had won 22 out of Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 and the BJP won 18. If results were extrapolated to assembly constituencies for the 43 seats in this phase, the BJP was ahead in 19 and TMC in 24.
The 2019 results were a drastic realignment compared to the 2016 assembly elections, when TMC had won 32 of the 43 seats going to the polls on Thursday, the Left-Congress alliance won 11 and BJP none.
The main issues in this phase are development, lack of employment opportunities in the state and allegation of corruption by ruling party workers and leaders.
In the sixth phase, the administration tightened security in North 24 Parganas where an unidentified youth was killed and another was injured in an explosion on Tuesday night in Titagarh.
Arjun Singh, the BJP Lok Sabha member from Barrackpore, alleged that bombs went off near his home at Bhatpara but the police harassed local residents instead of arresting the culprits.
“The BJP is confident of winning most of the seats in North 24 Parganas. The only seat where the contest will be tough is Swarupnagar. Fearing defeat, the TMC is resorting to violence,” Singh said.
“We have started a probe and raids are being conducted,” an officer from Bhatpara police station said on condition of anonymity.
“The administration is taking action. BJP leaders are making baseless allegations,” said Jitendra Shaw, TMC candidate from the Bhatpara assembly seat, held by Arjun Singh’s son Pawan Singh, the BJP candidate.
In Noapara, the BJP has fielded sitting legislator and Arjun Singh’s brother-in-law Sunil Singh, who, like many other BJP leaders in the fray, left TMC in 2019.
Former TMC leader and BJP national vice-president Mukul Roy’s son Subhranshu Roy is contesting from Bijpur in North 24 Parganas while Roy himself is contesting the Krishnanagar North seat in Nadia district against actress Kaushani Mukherjee from TMC.
In North 24 Parganas, North Dinajpur and Nadia, the BJP has made deep inroads with support from the Dalit Namasudra community.
During their frequent visits to the state, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah announced the Centre will resolve the problem of citizenship of the Namashudra community, a sizeable portion of whom entered West Bengal as refugees from Bangladesh after 1947 and the 1971 war to escape religious persecution.
The seats where the Namasudra community has noticeable presence are Chapra, Karimpur and Tehatta in Nadia district and Chakulia, Hemtabad and Kaliaganj in North Dinajpur. The last two seats are reserved for scheduled caste candidates.
In the densely populated East Burdwan district, which is referred to as the rice bowl of Bengal, eight seats are going to the polls. These are Bhatar, Purbasthali North, Purbasthali South, Katwa, Mangalkot, Ketugram, Ausgram and Galsi. The last two are reserved for scheduled caste candidates.
At the Purbasthali South constituency, where Muslims comprise around 20 % of the population, minister Swapan Debnath, who won the seat in 2011 and 2016, is contesting against Abhijit Bhattacharya of the Congress and the BJP’s Rajib Bhowmick.
In North Dinajpur district, the BJP’s campaign had focused on illegal infiltration from Bangladesh and plight of Hindu families that came to India as refugees. The strategy had helped the BJP win seven of the eight Lok Sabha seats in the eight districts of north Bengal in 2019.