High stakes for top opposition leaders, 70 lakh voters and the spectre of “ghost voting” will combine as West Bengal prepares for voting in 31 constituencies in the second part of phase one of the assembly elections Monday.
Allegations of “ghost voting” were traded by the opposition after a last-minute surge in the turnout of several assemblies that had gone to polls in the previous sub-phase. The Left alleged that several voters – who were absent, shifted or deceased – had been shown as having turned out.
Ahead of Monday’s voting the Election Commission ordered the removal of Sujit Mukherjee, OC of Durgapur, following a complaint by the CPM that he had allowed a bike rally in violation of rules.
The Election Commission has promised to look into allegations of proxy voting. Opposition leaders had also alleged in the first part of the phase that central forces were “underutilised” by the state government, with the police allegedly entering the polling booth in some cases and influencing voters.
Altogether 163 candidates, including 21 women, are in the fray in the 31 seats of West Medinipur, Bankura and Burdwan. Soaring temperatures could affect voting in districts such as Bankurs and Burdwan.
For the Trinamool Congress, the elections will be a test of its claims of “development”, particularly in areas such as West Medinipur where the Congress and CPM had managed to resist the ruling party’s “poriborton” wave in 2011. Five-time CPM MLA from Narayangarh and Leader of the Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra and senior state Congress leader Manas Bhunia from Sabang are among the major candidates in this phase.