Polling underway for 2nd phase of assembly elections in Assam and West Bengal


GUWAHATI: In the poll-bound states of Assam and West Bengal, polling for the Second Phase of Assembly Elections began today at 7.00 A.M. The polling will be conducted till 6.00 P.M. in Assam while it will continue till 6.30 P.M. in West Bengal. All the necessary facilities and security arrangements have been made to ensure free and fair polling during this phase. The Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is being used along with Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) at every Polling Station, with a view to enhance the transparency and credibility of the election process. The availability of adequate number of EVMs and VVPATs has already been ensured for the smooth conduct of elections.
In view of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, the option of Postal Ballot facility has been extended to the electors who are COVID- 19 positive or suspect as certified by competent authority and are in home or institutional quarantine along with those marked as Persons with Disabilities (PwD) and above the age of 80 years. It has also been ensured that every Polling Station is equipped with Assured Minimum Facilities (AMF) like drinking water, waiting shed, toilet with water facility, adequate arrangements for lighting, ramp of appropriate gradient for the  Persons with Disabilities. The special facilities include mandatory sanitization of Polling Station, thermal checking of voters at entry point either by polling staff or paramedical staff or an Asha worker. If temperature is above the set norms of Health Ministry, then the elector will be provided with token and asked to come for voting at the last hour of poll. At the last hour of poll, such electors will be facilitated for voting, strictly following COVID-19 related preventive measures.
Polling is going on peacefully in the second phase of assembly elections in 30 seats across 4 districts in West Bengal. It is being held at 9 seats each in East and West Medinipur, 8 seats in Bankura and 4 seats in South 24 Parganas.
Polling began at 7am in the morning, it will continue till 6.30 pm in the evening. People in large numbers are seen standing in queues from this morning. All covid protocols are being followed.
Elaborate security arrangements have been put in place to ensure free, fair and peaceful polling. A total of 651 companies of central forces have been deployed in 30 constituencies, 210 at West Medinipur and 199 companies at East Medinipur. 
Over 75 lakhs electors will be exercising their franchise in 10 thousand 620 booths. Webcasting is being done from 5 thousand 5 hundred 35 booths. Drones are being used for monitoring especially in the coastal areas of the Sundarbans as well as in Nandigram.  Two IPS officers have been given special charge in East Medinipur district, one at Haldia and the other one at Nandigram. The election commission has taken special measures for the high profile seat Nandigram. 22 companies of para military forces and 22 quick response teams have been put in place. 100 percent booths have been declared as sensitive and 8 jawans of central forces are manning each booth. Section 144 had been imposed across Nandigram. Ferry service had been stopped since last evening.
In West Bengal, 171 candidates including 19 women are vying for the 30 seats in four districts during the Second Phase. The state is witnessing eight-phase elections. Over 75.94 lakh voters including 37.13 lakh women and 89 Third Gender persons will decide the fate of these candidates. Total 10,620 Polling Stations have been set up in the Second Phase for this purpose. Bharatiya Janata Party and ruling AITC are contesting for all the 30 seats while Congress, Left parties and their alliance partner Indian Secular Front are fighting under the banner of Sanyukt Morcha. CPI (M) has fielded 15 candidates, Congress has nine, BSP seven, CPI two and AIFB and RSP one each while there are 32 independents along with 44 others are also in the fray.
The prominent leaders contesting during the Second Phase include AITC President and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, her former aide and rival BJP candidate Shubhendu Adhikari along with CPI (M) youth leader Minakshi Mukherjee from Nandigram. AITC Ministers Soumen Mahapatra from Tamluk and Manturam Pakhira from Kakdwip, former Minister Manas Bhuniya, former IPS officers Bharati Ghosh and Humayun Kabir from Debra, Tollywood film stars Sohom Chakraborty from Chandipur, Hiranmoy Chattopadhyaya from Kharagpur Sadar and Sayantika Banerjee from Bankura along with former cricketer Ashoke Dinda from Moyna are also in the fray in this phase.
In Assam, the polling has begun for the second phase in the state. Polling will conclude at 6 pm. This phase will cover 39 seats. A total of 345 candidates are in the fray in this phase. Over 73 lakh voters can exercise their voting rights. Nearly 80 percent polling was reported in the first phase of polls. In this phase, most of the seats are likely to see a straight fight between the NDA and Congress led Mahajoth. BJP has fielded 34 candidates, Congress has 28, Assam Jatiya Parishad  -19, AIUDF seven, AGP six and BPF has four candidates are in the fray .
For the ruling BJP , ministers Parimal Suklabaidya, Bhabesh Kalita , Pijush Hazarika and sitting MLA Numal Momin would seek re -election.  Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha, Sum Ronghang, Siddique Ahmed from the Congress would try their political luck. Senior BPF leader and minister Rihon Daimary is also in the fray from Udalguri seat. Suzam Uddin Lashkar, Siraj Uddin Ajmal would be in the contest for AIUDF. However, this election would not witness participation of former Chief Minister and Asom Gana Parishad leader Prafulla Kumar Mahanta who represented Bahrampur seat for last 35 years.
In Assam, there are three main alliances including the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance with partners Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) and Mahajot or Grand Alliance led by the Congress. It includes All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF) and the Left parties while yet another conglomerate of Assom Jatiya Party (AJP) and Raijor Dal is also there. BJP has fielded 34 candidates, Congress has 28, AJP -19, AIUDF seven, AGP six and BPF has four while 176 independents and others are also trying their luck.
The prominent leaders contesting during the Second Phase include BJP Ministers Piyush Hazarika from Jagiroad, Parimal Sukla Baidya from the Dholai and Bhabesh Kalita from Rangia along with Deputy Speaker of Assembly Aminul Haque Laskar from Sonai. Former Minister Gautam Roy is contesting from Katigorah while former Deputy Speaker Dilip Kumar Paul, who resigned from the BJP after he was denied ticket, is contesting as an Independent from Silchar. Former Minister and Congress leader Sum Ronghang is also in the fray from the Diphu seat. Rajya Sabha MP Biswajit Daimary is contesting from Panery and former Asam Sahitya Sabha President Paramananda Rajbongshi is trying his luck from Sipajhar.
Meanwhile, the election campaign is heating up in respect of the Third Phase in both these states and also for the single-phase elections in Kerala and Tamil Nadu as well as the Union Territory of Puducherry. The Third Phase of polling in these two states will be held on 6th of April when 338 candidates will be contesting for the 40 seats of Assam and 205 candidates for 31 seats of West Bengal.
The single-phase polling in Kerala, Tamil Nadu along with the Union Territory of Puducherry will also be held on the 6th of the next month. There are 957 candidates in the fray for the 140 Assembly Constituencies of Kerala.  The total number of candidates is 4,125 in respect of 234 Constituencies in Tamil Nadu. In Puducherry, 324 candidates will be vying for the 30 Assembly seats.
Besides, the Lok Sabha by-polls will be conducted simultaneously for Kanyakumari seat in Tamil Nadu where 12 candidates are in the fray and also for Malappuram seat in Kerala, where six candidates are taking part in the electoral battle.
During the Fourth Phase of Assembly Elections in West Bengal, the final scenario of electoral contests became clear last Friday after withdrawal of candidature and the election campaign was initiated by the prominent leaders of different political parties. During this phase, 373 candidates will be vying for 44 Assembly seats that will go to polls on the 10th of April.
The scrutiny of the nomination papers for the Fifth Phase was completed yesterday and the last date for withdrawal of candidature will be the 3rd of April.   The scrutiny was also done simultaneously for By-Elections of two Lok Sabha seats including Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh and Belgaum in Karnataka along with 14 Assembly Constituencies in eleven states. The ACs going in for the by-polls include three in Rajasthan, two in Karnataka and one each in Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Telangana and Uttarakhand.  In all, 45 ACs will go to polls in the Fifth Phase on 17th of April. 
Meanwhile, the process of filing nominations for the Sixth Phase of elections in West Bengal will continue till 3rd of April and the scrutiny of nominations will be held on the 5th of April. The last date of withdrawal of candidature will be 7th of April and 43 Assembly Constituencies will go to polls in this phase on the 22nd of April.
The nomination process for the Seventh as well as the Eighth and Final Phase of the Assembly Elections in West Bengal, which began yesterday, will continue till the 7th of April and the scrutiny will be held on the 8th of April. The last date for withdrawal of candidature will be the 12th of April.  In all, 36 Assembly Constituencies will go to polls in the Seventh Phase on the 26th of April while remaining 35 Assembly Constituencies will go to polls in the Eighth Phase on the 29th of April.
The counting of votes will be taken up together on the 2nd of May.

PM Modi urges people to vote in record numbers in Assam, West Bengal assembly polls. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has requested all eligible voters of the second phase of Assembly polls in Assam to strengthen the festival of democracy by exercising their franchise.
In a tweet, Mr Modi also urged the people of West Bengal in whose seats there is polling taking place today to vote in record numbers.