Voting for the high-decibel election to the West Bengal legislative assembly starts today and will continue in seven more phases till April 29. People will vote for their choice among 191 candidates in 30 constituencies in this phase. The Election Commission has set up 10,288 booths where people can vote in this phase.
Most of these 30 seats are spread across tribal-dominated Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, Purba Medinipur (Part 1) and Paschim Medinipur (Part 1) districts. Bengal has a total of 294 assembly seats.
26 of the 30 constituencies where voting will be held today had voted for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the last assembly elections. But the BJP swept them in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
The BJP deployed the combine might of its key leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an intense campaign in the constituencies going to the polls today. Home Minister Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Union Minister Smriti Irani were among top BJP leaders who campaigned in several of the 30 seats, including Purulia, Jhargram and Bankura districts.
Actor Mithun Chakraborty, who joined the BJP weeks ago, campaigned for party candidates in Jangalmahal and Bankura.
Ms Banerjee visited all the 30 constituencies during her campaign. She held a rally in some of the 30 seats even after she suffered a leg injury during a political event in Nandigram, from where she is contesting the election.
A line of attack commonly seen between the two rivals – BJP and Trinamool Congress – is the promise of “ashol poriborton (real change)” and building a “Sonar Bangla (prosperous Bengal)”.
Ms Banerjee often took a swipe at the BJP as a party of “outsiders”. She used the slogan “khela hobe (game on)” in a swipe at PM Modi during rallies.
The key candidates in the first phase are: Trinamool’s Sujoy Banerjee, BJP’s Sudip Mukherjee and the Congress’s Partha Prathim Banerjee in Purulia; Trinamool’s June Malia, BJP’s Shamit Dash and CPI(M)’s Tarun Kumar Ghosh in Medinipur; Trinamool’s Dinen Ray, BJP’s Tapan Bhuiya and CPI(M)’s Saddam Ali from Kharagpur, among others.
The BJP has fielded candidates in 293 seats and left one for its ally All Jharkhand Students Union, headed by Ashutosh Mahto. Ms Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress has allotted three seats to Bimal Gurung’s Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and will contest in the rest. Mr Gurung’s party is seen to be strong in the hills of north Bengal.
The Congress, CPI(M) and the Indian Secular Front have made an alliance. The Congress is contesting 91, Left 137 and Abbas Siddiqui’s ISF 28.
Counting of votes is on May 2.