POLL BATTLEGROUND NANDIGRAM
KOLKATA: With all eyes set on battleground Nandigram, as many as 22 companies of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers have been deployed in 355 polling stations on Wednesday across the most watched-out for assembly segment of West Bengal where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has locked horns with her protege-turned-rival and now a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Suvendu Adhikari.
The central forces jawans were seen carrying out extensive route march across Nandigram since this morning, in areas like Telhali, Boyal, Tengua and Reyapara a day ahead of the high-voltage political duel. Nandigram is going to polls on Thursday in the second of the eight-phase state assembly elections.
The Election Commission has already declared all polling booths in Nandigram as sensitive.
On the other hand, the state's ruling Trinamool Congress had also pointed fingers at the role of the central forces' jawans in Nandigram.
Mamata Banerjee had repeatedly asked all female voters to wear masks while going to cast their votes on April 1, so that central forces jawans cannot harass them at polling stations.
On Tuesday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had held a grand roadshow at ground zero to woo supporters for BJP candidate Adhikari. Thousands of villagers and party workers had gathered along the four-km stretch between Bethuria and Rayapara in the East Midnapore assembly segment as Shah stood atop a lorry waving at enthusiastic supporters.
Confident about BJP's win, Shah said: "It's BJP everywhere in West Bengal! I am sure that Nandigram will turn out to be the epicentre of Poriborton (change) in Bengal." Incidents of sporadic violence were reported at areas like Boyal and Gokulnagar on Tuesday night where crude bombs were hurled at each other between the Trinamool Congress and BJP activists in East Midnapore's Nandigram block-2 before the second phase of polling. Aerial surveillance is being conducted by helicopters in Nandigram.
This apart, naka checking is being done at various entry points, especially after the Trinamool supremo alleged that outsiders had entered into Nandigram to disrupt the free and fair election mechanism.
According to sources in the EC, a special cell will be formed at the office of the Chief Electoral Office (CEO) in West Bengal to monitor the polling process in Nandigram.
As many as 75 per cent of the total polling stations would be taken under webcasting model which means that there will be cameras installed in as many as 267 booths of Nandigram. EC officials will monitor all the video footage of Nandigram from their control room, sources said.
Out of the 2.75 lakh registered voters in Nandigram about 62,000 are minority voters. In the second phase, a total of 30 assembly constituencies are up for grab, the same number of seats had gone to polls in first phase on March 27.
These 30 seats are spread in three districts of South 24-Parganas, Bankura, and East Medinipur. Polling in West Bengal was scheduled in eight phases. For 30 seats in phase-2, 171 candidates are in fray of which 152 are men and 19 women.
With first phase over and second phase on April 1, the remaining phases will be on April 6, 10, 17, 22, 26 and 29. The counting of votes will take place on May 2. (IANS)