Amid coronavirus surge, sixth phase of polling begins in Bengal
The sixth phase of polling began today at 7 am in West Bengal, at a time when the nation is struggling to control the spread of coronavirus. Forty-three seats are up for grabs in this phase, with 306 candidates contesting for a ticket to the Assembly. Both the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have fielded candidates on all seats.
Congress fielded candidates on 12 seats
Congress and CPI(M) are contesting on 12 and 23 seats respectively. Other constituents of the Samyukta Morcha — the All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) and CPI — have fielded candidates on four and two seats respectively. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has also stepped into the contest by fielding 37 candidates. Over 1.03 crore voters are eligible to exercise their rights today.
BJP's Mukul Roy is up against TMC's Koushani Mukherjee
Several heavyweights, including Mukul Roy, BJP's National Vice President, are testing their luck today. Roy had dumped TMC and switched over to BJP in 2017. He is contesting from the Krishnanagar Uttar seat in the Nadia district and is up against actor Koushani Mukherjee, a member of TMC, and Congress's Sylvie Saha. This is the second time Roy is contesting an election.
Spot visuals: Roy cast his vote this morning
West Bengal: BJP national vice president Mukul Roy casts his vote for the sixth phase of state Assembly polls at booth number 141 - at Kanchrapara Municipal Polytechnic High School - in Kanchrapara of North 24 Parganas district.#WestBengalElections pic.twitter.com/gDp5z1VYsS— ANI (@ANI) April 22, 2021
Voters will also seal the fate of two ministers
Two ministers of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's cabinet are also in the fray. Chandrima Bhattacharya, Minister of State for Health, is fighting for the Dum Dum Uttar seat, whereas Jyotipriya Mallick, the Food and Civil Supplies Minister, has been fielded from Habra. Mallick is facing BJP's senior leader Rahul Sinha, who was earlier banned by the Election Commission from campaigning for 48 hours.
Matua bastions are voting today
Interestingly, Matua strongholds like Bongaon and Krishnanagar, which are close to the India-Bangladesh border, are voting today. The Matua community has faced religious persecution since the 1950s and has for decades sought shelter in West Bengal. BJP claimed that TMC and CPI(M) ignored them and urged voters to choose development this time. Countering this, TMC claimed BJP was giving false hopes to refugees.
The controversial citizenship law has turned into a major issue
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which seeks to provide Indian citizenship to persecuted religious minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, has emerged as a major issue within the Matua community. The members are concerned that if the NRC exercise is carried out before CAA is enforced, they will be labeled as foreigners. Due to their population, the Matuas make for an enviable vote bank.
PM Modi urged eligible people to vote
Of the 43 seats that are voting today, TMC had won 32 during the 2016 Assembly polls and Congress had bagged seven. This morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged eligible people to vote. "The people of West Bengal are voting to elect a new assembly. On the sixth phase today, urging those whose seats are polling to exercise their franchise," he tweeted.
Here is his tweet
The people of West Bengal are voting to elect a new assembly. On the sixth phase today, urging those whose seats are polling to exercise their franchise.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 22, 2021