Polling begins in West Bengal electoral battle
Kolkata: The first of a marathon electoral battle began West Bengal Monday, as the Congress-Trinamool Congress combine tries to end the 35 year rule of the Left Front.
Polling began in 54 Assembly constituencies spread over the six North Bengal districts of Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Uttar (north) Dinajpur, Dakshin (south) Dinajpur and Malda.
Over 9.7 million voters will decide the fate of a total of 364 candidates, including 102 independents.
The assembly elections are widely regarded as the toughest challenge faced by the 10-party Left Front that came to power in 1977 riding on popular discontent with the excesses of the Emergency rule imposed by Indira Gandhi.
Since then, the Left Front led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), has entrenched itself among the rural masses, which it has empowered socio-economically by undertaking large-scale land reforms.
Mamata Banerjee, the opposition's chief ministerial nominee, has been campaigning extensively, urging the people to usher in the winds of change for better governance and an end to CPI-M misrule.
In meetings after meetings, the firebrand leader is harping on the "atrocities" committed by the CPI-M on the people. She is promising a new dawn of development and jobs if the Trinamool-Congress combine is voted to power.
Election Commission (EC) officials have made arrangements for the heavy deployment of security forces and have declared most of the constituencies there to be hyper-sensitive, in order to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections in all the six districts.
Earlier this week, the commission announced that a four-layered security cover, comprising central paramilitary forces and the state police, would be deployed in all sensitive and hyper-sensitive areas during the coming first phase of polls in North Bengal.
State Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta said here in Kolkata that all the inter-state, as well as international borders along the districts would be sealed from yesterday. He added that strict vigil will be kept at the borders.
The commission has decided to scrap photo-affixed voter slips from the list of 14 alternative identity documents that can be produced before voting in case a voter has not been issued Elector's Photo Identity Card.
The commission will also monitor 150 booths in critical areas through live videos — a new initiative where the general public will also be able watch live videos by logging on to the West Bengal Chief Electoral Officer's website.
"The commission is using a system called Flash Live Video (FLV) for this purpose which can perform even under low bandwidth and can stream from multiple sources," a senior official with the IT unit told Gulf News.