West Bengal goes to polls Monday in 31 seats in 2nd part of phase I

Altogether 163 candidates, including 21 women, are in the fray in the 31 seats of West Midnapore, Bankura and Burdwan districts.

Kolkata: The fate of top opposition leaders in West Bengal will be sealed by about 70 lakh voters in 31 constituencies in high-stakes multi-cornered contest in second part of phase one of Assembly elections on Monday.

Altogether 163 candidates, including 21 women, are in the fray in the 31 seats of West Midnapore, Bankura and Burdwan districts.

Around 70 lakh people are eligible to cast their votes between 7 AM and 6 PM while districts like Bankura and Burdwan are reeling under heatwave with the Met office predicting no respite is in sight for the next three to four days.

The hustings will witness a triangular contest among the ruling Trinamool Congress, Left Front-Congress alliance, and BJP. All of them have fielded candidates in all the 31 seats.

Five-time CPI-M MLA from Narayangarh and Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra, senior state Congress leader Manas Bhuniya from Sabang are among the major candidates in this phase.

91-year-old Gyan Singh Sohanpal, the senior most member in the Assembly, is in the fray again from Kharagpur Sadar seat where he is pitted against BJP state president Dilip Ghosh.

Two prominent newbies - Bengali film actor Soham Chakraborty and Colonel (retired) Diptanshu Chaudhury, who had fought in the Kargil War - are trying their luck in politics on Trinamool Congress and BJP tickets respectively.

Besides the Saradha chitfund scam, opposition parties have been targeting the TMC government on the recent Narada sting operation where party leaders were purportedly seen accepting bribe. Issues related to industrialisation and the "Syndicate Raj" have also been haunting the dispensation.

On the other hand, Trinamool is making a determined bid for a second successive term by harping on the 'development' and welfare schemes the Mamata Banerjee government has brought in state during its maiden five-year rule.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah,

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Congress Vice-president Rahul Gandhi, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury were among the star campaigners for the opposition parties.

For TMC, party supremo Mamata Banerjee, who has urged the people to vote thinking that "I (Banerjee) am the candidate in all 294 seats", has campaigned extensively.

Polling will be held at 8,465 polling stations amid tight security.

Central Armed Police Forces have been mandated the responsibility of handling situation inside the booths, while the state police forces are involved in other jobs like maintaining queues and managing crowds.

Of the about 70 lakh voters in this phase 33.6 lakh are women and 50 belong to the third gender.

Five more phases of polling will be held in the state till May five.