High voter turnout expected in W. Bengal elections Ph-I

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First phase of West Bengal elections has already started this morning in 54 constituencies. The enthusiasm can be felt from the fact that people started started queuing up from 7 a.m. itself and 14 % voting has been registered in first two hours. In this phase 97.42 lakh voters will decide the fate of 364 candidates in 54 constituencies across six north Bengal districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, North Dinajpur, Cooch Behar, South Dinajpur and Malda. The fate of 11 ministers of the Left Front will also be decided in phase I.

In this phase, the Bharatiya Janata Party which has never registered much presence in West Bengal is contesting the largest no. of 49 seats. CPI-M is contesting in 32 seats, the Communist Party of India (CPI) (2), Forward Bloc (10), Revolutionary Communist Party (RSP) (9), Socialist Party (1). The opposition Trinamool Congress is contesting 26 seats while its alliance partner Congress is contesting 27 seats.

Large numbers of paramilitary troops and state police have been deployed in the constituencies where voting is being held to ensure the vote passes off peacefully.

In the phase I today, the CPI (M) is going to have a tough task in the Gorkha dominated areas of Darjeeling and Dooars as well. This zone has been in turmoil due to police atrocities on Gorkhaland supporters. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) which led the agitation for Gorkhaland has put up its own candidates. The GJM has campaigned aggressively against the ruling CPI (M) since its formation in 2007.

Overall in Bengal, Ms Mamata Banerjee of the opposition Trinamool Party has made the economic decline of the West Bengal as the main election issue. She has accused the Communists of failing West Bengal’s 90 million people despite continuously ruling the state for 34 years.

Banerjee’s Trinamool Party has been ranked as favourites in all the poll surveys in recent times but Trinamool has taken no chance and has struck an alliance with the Indian National Congress. The ruling CPI (M) is widely expected to receive a drubbing at the hands of her party.

If Trinamool comes to power, it would represent a momentous shift in Indian politics. It will have a deep impact on the national politics of India as well. Communists form a major pillar of Indian think tank and the only cadre based ideologues who have constantly challenged the RSS-BJP led right wing.

For Bengal Mamta’s economic philosophy hardly seems to be an option than that of Buddhadeb Bhattacharya’s. Her record as the Railways Minister in the central government from 2009 to the present should raise alarm bells. Under her, the railways have seen large losses and have failed to expand the rail network and modernize their antiquated infrastructure.

Two days ago Hindustan Times reported that the Northern Railway had a precarious operating ratio of 112.74% in the last year. This is not the first time Banerjee became a railway minister but she has learnt nothing over the years.

Mamata Banerjee always did a populist railway budget focused on Bengal and made no serious attempt to bring one of world’s largest network out of the red. Her excessive Bengal focus resulted in half the railways’ losses accruing in West Bengal. Three terms as railway minister and Ms. Banerjee could never strike this balance as Railways Minister.

Will she be able do this as Chief Minister?

West Bengal voters will decide that in six phase elections over next one month. A high voter turnout is expected in phase I today. The upcoming 5 phases will be held on April 23 (for 50 constituencies), April 27 (75), May 3 (63), May 7 (38) and May 10 (14).

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