Over 86 lakh voters in West Bengal will decide the political fate of 284 candidates, when 34 Assembly constituencies, including Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s home turf Bhabanipur, go to polls in the seventh phase, amid a raging second wave of COVID-19.
Security measures have been heightened in view of the violence in the previous phases, particularly the death of five people in Cooch Behar in the fourth round of polling on April 10, an Election Commission official said.
The poll panel has decided to deploy at least 796 companies of central forces in the seventh phase to ensure free and fair voting, he said.
It will also put in place measures to ensure strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols during the voting process, the official said.
The State will witness one more phase of polling on April 29. Votes will be counted on May 2.
Here are the live updates:
Polling for 34 seats in 5 districts
Elections to the seventh and penultimate phase in West Bengal will be held across 34 Assembly segments across four districts of the State including Kolkata on April 26 ( Monday). The Election Commission had scheduled polling on 36 seats but polling in two seats, Shamsherganj and Jangipur in Murshidabad district, has been postponed because of the deaths of Samyukt Morcha candidates in these seats.
Six constituencies each are going to polls in Dakshin Dinajpur and Malda districts, four in Kolkata and nine each in Paschim Bardhaman and Murshidabad districts. Of the 34 seats, four seats are reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates and two for Scheduled Tribe candidates. About 280 candidates are in the fray and the total number of polling booths is about 9,000.
Trinamool arrays political heavyweights to defend Kolkata
Kolkata, particularly south Kolkata, has always had a special fondness for the Trinamool Congress and its chairperson, Ms. Banerjee. The city elected her as MP seven times and as MLA on two occasions. Even during the height of the Communist Party of India-Marxist’s (CPI-M) Left front government in the State, Ms. Banerjee could always count on winning in the metropolis.
One more candidate succumbs to COVID-19
West Bengal on Sunday registered a record number of 15,889 COVID-19 infections in the past 24 hours, with one more candidate who stood in the polls succumbing to the virus. The State has recorded 57 deaths in the past 24 hours.
Kajal Sinha, Trinamool Congress candidate from the Khardah Assembly, died at a city hospital. The 59-year-old had tested positive for COVID-19 a day before the Khardah constituency went to polls on April 22. With his death, three candidates who were in the poll fray have succumbed to COVID-19. Earlier, Saymukt Morcha candidates from Shamsherganj and Jangipur in the Murshidabad district died after testing positive for COVID-19 and before their constituencies went to polls .
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee described Mr. Sinha as a true soldier of the Trinamool Congress and expressed the hope that the TMC would win the seat when votes were counted.