Polling underway in 2nd phase of Assembly elections in Assam, West Bengal
Long queues of voters seen at a polling station in Bokajan constituency during the second phase of polling in the elections to the Assam Legislative Assembly, on April 1, 2021.

Polling underway in 2nd phase of Assembly elections in Assam, West Bengal

Guwahati/Kolkata, April 1, 2021

Polling began this morning amidst tight security in 39 constituencies in Assam and 30 in West Bengal in the second phase of the Assembly elections in the two States.

All eyes will be on the Nandidgram constituency in East Medinipur district of West Bengal where Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, seeking a third term in office, is pitted against Shubhendu Adhikari, her former aide who switched sides to the BJP in the run-up to the elections.

Voters could be seen queueing up at many polling stations in both States soon after voting began at 7 am.

In Assam, there are 345 candidates, including 26 women, in the fray in the 39 constituencies, spread over 13 districts, that went to the polls today.

More than 73.44 lakh voters, including 36.09 women, are eligible to exercise their franchise in these constituencies. A total of 10,592 polling stations have been set up in these constituencies.

The main contest in the State is between the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Congress-led Mahajot or Grand Alliance. The NDA allies include Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the United People's Party Liberal (UPPL) while the Mahajot includes the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the Bodoland People's Front (BPF) and the Left parties.

A third combine, consisting of the Assom Jatiya Party (AJP) and Raijor Dal is also there.

The BJP has put up 34 candidates for the seats at stake today, while the Cogress has fielded 28, the AJP 19, the AIUDF 7, the AGP six and the BPF four. There are also 176 candidates.

In Thursday's balloting, the electoral fate of several Assam Ministers including Fisheries, Excise, Environment and Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Piyush Hazarika and Irrigation Minister Bhabesh Kalita as well as Deputy Speaker Aminul Haque Laskar will be sealed.

Suklabaidya is contesting from the Dholai seat for the seventh time on a BJP ticket, Hazarika from Jagiroad and Kalita from Rangia.

Former Congress Minister Gautam Roy is contesting from Katigorah on a BJP ticket, while former Deputy Speaker Dilip Kumar Paul, who resigned from the BJP after he was denied ticket and was subsequently expelled, is contesting as an independent candidate from Silchar.

In West Bengal, there are 171 candidates, including 19 women, in the fray for the 30 seats that went to the polls today in the second of eight phases of polling.

More than 75.94 lakh people, including 37.13 lakh women, are eligible to vote in these constituencies. A total of 10,620 polling stations have been set up in these constituencies.

The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are contesting in all the constituencies.

The Congress, the Left parties and the Indian Secular Front are fighting the elections jointly under the banner of Sanyukt Morcha.

The CPI (M) has fielded 15 candidates, the Congress nine, the BSP seven, CPI two and AIFB and RSP one each. There are 44 others and 32 independent candidates also in the contest.

For Mamata Banerjee and the BJP, the battle for Nandigram is a prestige fight because it was the 2007 agitation against land acquisition in the region which catapulted her to the centrestage of politics in the state, paving the way for the Trinamool's victory in the 2011 Assembly polls that ended 34 years of Left Front rule.

In the high stakes poll battle this time, a victory is a must for Banerjee so that she can lead the government and keep together her party, which is faced with exodus.

For Adhikari it is a battle for political survival as a defeat would be a devastating blow and might also put a question mark on his political graph in his new party, the BJP.

A victory would not only establish him as one of the tallest leaders in Bengal but would also push him few miles ahead of others in the Chief Ministerial race in case the BJP is voted to power.

Covid-19 protocols for the voters including social distancing and thermal screening are being maintained at all the polling stations.

The first phase of polling in Assam and West Bengal was held on March 27. The third and final phase of polling for the 126-member Assam Assembly will be held on April 6, while the remaining six phases of polling for the 294-member West Bengal Assembly will be held on April 6, April 10, April 17, April 22, April 26 and April 29.

Polling for the 234-member Tamil Nadu Assembly, the 140-member Kerala Assembly and the 30-member Puducherry Assembly will be held in a single phase on April 6.

Counting of votes in all five States will begin on May 2 and most of the results are expected to be out by that evening.

(With inputs from IANS)

NNN

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