Campaigning for the third phase of polls in West Bengal will end by Sunday evening. With better-than-expected turnout in the last two phases, political pundits are keeping a close on which the eastern state votes.
The 294 assembly segments in the state would be contested for over a month – in eight phases.
The third phase, in which 31 constituencies would go to polls, is slated for April 6. The fourth phase of elections, in 44 seats, would be held on April 10. The fifth phase of polls in 45 assembly segments is scheduled on April 17. The sixth round for 43 seats would be held on April 22. The seventh phase of polls for 35 constituencies is slated for April 26. The eighth and final round of elections is scheduled for April 29, when the remaining 35 assembly segments would go to the polls. The Election Commission of India would declare the results on May 2.
Here are the key players:
Mamata Banerjee – The chief minister is arguably the centrifugal point of this election. The TMC is rallying around her, whereas, the BJP has put her on the centre of their political attack. Despite the foot injury she suffered in Nandigram, Mamata has not abandoned the campaign trail. Amid the spree of defections from Trinamool, experts have tagged her as the “one-woman army” of the ruling camp.
Dilip Ghosh – The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-turned-BJP functionary has been instrumental to the party’s meteoric rise in the state. After taking over the charge of BJP’s Bengal unit chief in 2015, Ghosh has played a vital role in strengthening the party’s cadre strength. Under his leadership in the state, the BJP succeeded in winning 18 out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019.
Suvendu Adhikari – The former most-trusted lieutenant of Mamata Banerjee dealt her with a severe blow by making the saffron switch in last December. In Nandigram – the seat he currently represents – Suvendu is challenged by the chief minister herself. If he succeeds in defeating Mamata, and the BJP clinches a majority, the 50-year-old could emerge as the most probable CM choice for the party.
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury – The Congress’ Lok Sabha leader is also the party’s state unit chief in Bengal. He had led the party in 2016 as well, when it succeeded to improve its tally as compared to the previous election. Nearly half of the 44 seats won by the Congress were attributed to Chowdhury – as 14 MLAs of the party were elected from Murshidabad and eight from Malda. Both the districts are considered as his bastions.
Abbas Siddiqui – Few politicians would earn the bargaining power which Siddiqui has done within a short span of his entry into state politics. The Left Front-led alliance has not only accommodated him but has allotted a significant chunk of 37 seats. In his own words, the cleric has claimed that he wants to be the “kingmaker” in Bengal.