In the poll-bound states of Assam and West Bengal, all the necessary preparations have been made for the Second Phase polling of Assembly Elections tomorrow. The Election Commission has decided to use Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) along with Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) at every Polling Station, with a view to enhance the transparency and credibility of the election process, as VVPAT allows the voter to verify his/her vote. The arrangements have already been made to ensure availability of adequate number of EVMs and VVPATs for the smooth conduct of elections.
In view of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, the Election Commission has decided to allow maximum 1,000 electors in a Polling Station instead of earlier stipulation of 1,500 electors. 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 will be 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 will 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.
In Assam, 345 candidates including 26 women are in fray for the 39 Assembly Constituencies spread over 13 districts that will go to polls on Thursday during the Second of three-phase elections. Over 73.44 lakh voters including 36.09 lakh women and 135 Third Gender persons will decide the fate of these candidates. Total 10,592 Polling Stations have been set up in the First Phase for this purpose. There are three main alliances this time 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, AIDUF 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.
In West Bengal, 171 candidates including 19 women will be vying for the 30 seats in four districts during the Second Phase. The state is witnessing eight-phase elections. Over 75.95 lakh voters including 37.12 lakh women and 89 Third Gender persons will decide the fate of these candidates. More than 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.