Singur, Nandigram vote in round two (Poll Curtainraiser - West Bengal)

May 6th, 2009 - 4:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Kolkata, May 6 (IANS) The second phase of elections in West Bengal will be of interest not just to politicos but also India Inc with Nandigram and Singur, the two areas which hit the spotlight for anti-industrialisation protests, going to the hustings Thursday.
With one round over in the state and one more to go on May 13, more than 21 million voters spread across 17 constituencies in seven southern districts will choose their representatives in parliament from among 134 candidates, the most high profile among them being Congress veteran and union External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

With two filmstars and a sportsperson in the race, the glamour quotient will be high when people stand in queues before 27,178 booths to exercise their franchise.

While the April 30 polls covered the northern part of the state and the three Maoist hit western districts, the vote wagon moves further south on Thursday with the Trinamool Congress replacing alliance partner Congress as the principal adversary of the ruling Left Front, which has been in power for 32 years.

However, the Congress also has much at stake with its stronghold Murshidabad district slated to go to the polls in this phase. The party had made a clean sweep of the three seats in the district five years back.

Mukherjee, the second most powerful member in the union cabinet, is seeking re-election from Jangipur, also in Murshidabad, against a relative lightweight Mriganka Bhattacharya of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

Another constituency that has grabbed attention is Krishnanagar in Murshidabad’s neighbouring Nadia district, where former Asian Games double gold medallist athlete Jyotirmoyee Sikdar of the CPI-M is locked in a triangular fight with silver screen hero Tapas Pal of the Trinamool Congress and former union minister Satya Brata Mukerjee of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Adding to the glam factor is Birbhum, with Trinamool Congress having fielded leading Bengali cinema actress Shatabdi Roy opposite CPI-M’s Braja Mukherjee.

The two trouble spots that have hit the international spotlight will also vote. Singur, the original site of Tata Motors’ Nano factory in Hooghly district, comes under the Hooghly parliamentary seat. Nandigram, which became a synonym for political violence after protests over land being acquired for a chemical hub, falls under the Tamluk Lok Sabha constituency in East Midnapore.

National and international poll watchers will be closely following the verdict in the two areas to gauge the relative potency of the twin issues of industrialisation and anti-land acquisition protests, common in developing countries like India where bulk of the land is fertile and a majority of the people cultivators.

In the 2004 election, Left Front major CPI-M had won 14 of the 17 seats.

State chief secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty said it was not possible to deploy central forces in all the booths, but efforts were on to position armed guards in almost all polling stations.

The maximum number of security personnel would be deployed in Birbhum, which is close to the Maoist belt.

Of West Bengal’s 42 seats, 11 went to the polls on April 30, 17 constituencies will vote Thursday and the remainder 11 in the last round on May 13. Counting will be on May 16.

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