Kolkata: Polling began for 53 constituencies in the fifth and penultimate phase on West Bengal assembly polls on Saturday.
Voting began at 7am for 31 constituencies in South 24 Parganas and 18 in Hooghly districts besides four in South Kolkata.
Today's 53 constituencies are considered very important as they are spread over an area considered the citadel of the state's ruling party Trinamool Congress. Several crude bombs were found from different parts of the city yesterday during random check by Kolkata Police.
Four persons have been detained in connection with the recoveries, a senior police officer had said yesterday.
Nearly 1.24 crore (1,23,97,832) voters across 14,642 polling stations, including 77 auxiliary booths, are eligible to decide the fate of 349 candidates -- 43 of them female.
The Trinamool and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are contesting in all the seats in this phase.
The Left Front, which has tied up with the Indian National Congress, is in the fray in 37 seats - CPI-M ( 31), All India Forward Bloc (three), Revolutionary Socialist Party (two) and Communist Party of India (one). The Congress has nominated 14 candidates. The combine has lent support to the Nationalist Congress Party in one seat, and is backing an independent in another.
Earlier, police seized ten crude bombs kept inside a bag lying in the backyard of a club in the Tiljala area in the southern part of the city, a day before the fifth phase of Assembly polls.
As per the Election Commission's directives, all clubs where likelihood of outsiders assembling and intimidating the voters have been identified and brought under strict vigilance.
The Kolkata Police is maintaining strict vigil in and around the city to avert any incident during today's polling in the city and surrounding areas under its jurisdiction.
Checking of vehicles at crucial places both at the entry and exit points of the city, increase of patrolling both at day and night at "sensitive areas" were continuing.
Meanwhile, as many as 680 companies of central forces have been deployed in poll-bound districts of South 24 Parganas, Kolkata and Hooghly during the fifth phase of polls today, besides thousands of city and state police personnel, quick response and night intervention teams and flying squads.
According to additional chief electoral officer Dibyendu Sarkar, central forces deployed in 1,064 sectors spread across the three districts will be significant in maintaining law and order in the fifth phase.
Trinamool faces Narada, alliance challenge in its citadel
The fate of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee would be decided today alongside that of several Trinamool Congress leaders allegedly caught accepting illegal money in the Narada sting video
In the backdrop of the Calcutta High Court ordering on the poll eve a forensic test on the Narada sting tapes, 31 constituencies in South 24 Parganas, 18 in Hooghly district and four in Kolkata South, all known bastions of the Trinamool, are going to the hustings.
In the 2011 assembly polls, the Trinamool - then an ally of the Congress and the Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist) - had bulldozed all opposition to capture 46 seats. The SUCI-C had bagged one.
The Left Front had won only six, with the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) getting four, and the Revolutionary Socialist Party and the All India Forward Bloc one each.
Over the past five years, the Trinamool has come up with spectacular electoral successes in the region, be it the assembly polls, or elections to the Lok Sabha, civic or rural bodies.
However, the opposition Congress-Left Front is hoping to put up a better showing, on the strength of the alliance arithmetic and the furore created over the Narada videos.
State ministers and party heavyweights Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, city mayor Sovon Chatterjee and Iqbal Ahmed - all contesting the polls - were among the leaders allegedly shown taking money in return for doling out favours to a fictitious company.
The Narada footage has dominated the election campaign, with the ruling party battling corruption charges levelled by the opposition, and seemingly jittery over the likely fallout in the urban areas, especially Kolkata.
Besides, the alliance chemistry of the LF-Congress combine, has made a number of constituencies in Hooghly and South 24 Parganas a close call.
All eyes will be on south Kolkata's Bhawanipur, where Mamata Banerjee -- seeking re-election -- is facing a challenge from Left Front-backed Congress nominee Deepa Dasmunshi and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's grandnephew Chandra Kumar Bose of the BJP.
Elsewhere, prominent candidates include ministers Arup Biswas and Manish Gupta -- both from Trinamool -- and CPI-M state secretariat members Rabin Deb and Sujan Chakraborty.
Another star candidate is Abdur Rezzak Mollah, a high-profile minister during the Left Front regime, who is contesting on a Trinamool ticket from Bhangore in South 24 Parganas.
Celebrated actress Debasree, the sitting legislator from Raidighi in South 24 Parganas, is taking on CPI-M heavyweight and former state minister Kanti Ganguly.
As part of fool-proof measures for ensuring free and fair polls, the Election Commission has decided to strictly enforce prohibitory orders under section 144 of the Indian Penal Code on Saturday to prevent unlawful assembly.
(With Agency inputs)