West Bengal polls enter fifth phase Saturday


Kolkata : Amid heightened security that includes helicopter surveillance, over 74 lakh voters will head to the polling booths Saturday as West Bengal’s assembly elections enter their fifth and penultimate phase.

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Voting will be held in 38 constituencies spread over four districts – three of them Maoist hit.

Two helicopters have already started aerial surveillance in the forest areas and remote corners of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts, parts of which will go to the hustings Saturday.

Polling to decide the fate of 193 candidates will be held in 12 seats in West Midnapore, five in Purulia, nine in Bankura, apart from another 12 in Burdwan in this phase covering 9,425 booths.

“We have made special security arrangements well in advance for the May 10 last phase, when polling will be held in the 14 Maoist-affected constituencies,” said state Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Kumar Gupta.

Around 550-600 companies of central paramilitary forces are being deployed for Saturday’s polling.

Among the heavy-weights in the fray are state Health Minister Surjya Kanta Mishra and state Congress president Manas Bhuniya.

Major campaigners, including West Bengal Chief Minister and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Left Front chairman and CPI-M state secretary Biman Bose, Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and former Indian cricket captain Mohammad Azharuddin were on the vote trail in the constituencies.

The CPI-M is contesting 32 seats, the Communist Party of India (CPI) one, Forward Bloc three, the Trinamool Congress 33, the Congress five and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) 38.

Polls for the 294-member assembly, which started April 18, will end May 10 with the sixth phase.

Polling has been completed in 242 seats in the first four phases.

The counting of votes will take place May 13.