Bengal set for first phase polling today

Kolkata, Mar 26 (PTI): More than 73 lakh voters in West Bengal will decide the fate of 191 candidates across 30 assembly segments, most of which are in the once-Naxal- affected Jungle Mahal region, as the state goes to the polls in the first phase on Saturday.
The elections will be held amid tight security with the Election Commission deploying around 684 companies of central forces that would guard 10,288 polling booths housed in 7,061 premises, officials said. Besides, the state police will also be deployed at strategic locations, they added.
In the first phase, polling will take place amid strict COVID-19 guidelines in all nine seats in Purulia, four in Bankura, four in Jhargram and six in Paschim Medinipur, besides the seven seats in high-stakes Purba Medinipur — the home ground of BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari. The TMC and BJP have fielded candidates in 29 seats each, while the Left-Congress-ISF alliance has put up candidates in all 30 seats, even as there are “friendly fights” in some.
Of these 30 seats, 27 were won by the TMC in the 2016 assembly elections, the Congress bagged two and RSP one. However, the equations changed in 2019 with BJP making massive inroads in the tribal-dominated Jungle Mahal region, winning all five Lok Sabha constituencies — Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, Medinipur and Bishnupur. In Jhargram, 11 paramilitary personnel will be deployed per booth, the highest for any election held in the state so far, officials said.
“Declaring all 1,307 booths in 1,010 premises as Left Wing Extremist (LWE) areas in Jhargram, we have decided to deploy 127 companies of the central forces only for booth management,” an EC official told PTI.
Another 14 companies of central forces will be used as Quick Response Teams (QRTs), one company for the maintenance of strong room and another two companies will be kept reserved as district and sub-divisional striking force, he said.
Altogether, 144 companies of central forces will be deployed in Jhargram for the election, he added.
In the other districts, an average of six paramilitary personnel will be deployed per booth, officials said.
Purulia has the highest deployment of forces with 185 companies being deputed in 3,127 booths housed in 2,025 premises, they said.
Total 148 companies will be deployed at 2,437 booths in 1,686 premises in Purba Medinipur, they said.
Besides, 124 companies for 2,089 booths at 1,363 premises will be deployed in Paschim Medinipur, officials said.
Bankura, with 1,328 booths in 950 premises, has got 83 companies of central forces for the first phase, they said.

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