Curtains came down on Friday over the campaigning for 34 assembly seats in West Bengal which are scheduled to go to the poll on April 26 in the seventh phase of election being held amidst the surge in coronavirus cases across the country. The campaigning for the seventh phase ended 72 hours before the polling on April 26.
A total of 86,78,221 voters — 44,44,634 male and 42,33,358 women and 229 from the third gender are eligible to exercise their franchise in the 34 constituencies spread across Malda (Part I), Kolkata Dakshin, Murshidabad (Part I), Paschim Bardhaman (Part 1) and Dakshin Dinajpur districts. Polling will be held between 7 am to 6.30 pm as in other phases at 12,068 polling stations in nine assembly constituencies each in Murshidabad and Paschim Bardhaman districts, six each in Dakshin Dinajpur and Malda districts four in Kolkata Dakshin.
Polling for two assembly seats in Samserganj and Jangipur have been declared void following the deaths of two candidates there. The Election Commission has fixed May 16 for the polling in these two seats.
The focus in this phase of polling will be on seats in the southern part of the city, mainly Bhabanipore which is the stronghold of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. While the fiery Banerjee has contested from Nandigram this time, she nominated one of her senior most party leaders Sovandeb Chattopadhyay from Bhabanipore. BJP has fielded actor-turned-politician Rudranil Ghosh from the seat.
From Rashbehari the saffron party has named Lt Gen (Dr) Subrata Saha against TMC’s Debasish Kumar. The state minister and city mayor Firhad Hakim will test his luck from Kolkata Port constituency where he will lock horns with BJP’s Awadh Kishore Gupta and Congress’ Mohammed Mukhtar. Focus will also be on polling at Balurghat, Malda, Chanchal, Harishchandrapur as well as in Lalgola, Murshidabad and Farakka seats.
Following the surge in COVID-19 cases across the country, the EC has banned road shows and vehicle rallies in the state with immediate effect. It has noted that Covid safety norms were being flouted in West Bengal during campaigning. It also disallowed any public meeting with more than 500 people.
Banerjee, who is also the TMC supremo and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee, who is the party MP cancelled all their scheduled rallies and held them on the virtual platform as did Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 23. During the physical campaign rallies rivals TMC and BJP hit out at each other.
The BJP leaders in their campaigns attacked Banerjee, her nephew Abhishek Banerjee alleging involvement of party leaders in the Saradha and Narada tapes scams to the recent allegations of siphoning of funds allocated for Amphan cyclone and the COVID-19 pandemic relief. The BJP leaders maintained that corruption and anarchy are prevalent in West Bengal and that the party will put an end to it after coming to power in the state.
Top BJP leaders like Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, party president J P Nadda, Smriti Irani held several rallies and public meetings in different parts of the assembly constituencies for this phase of poll.