Assam, Bengal Go to Polls: An Overview

West Bengal Assembly Elections 2016 Phase 1

West Bangal Assembly Elections 2016 Phase 1

The people of West Bengal and Assam get to choose their representatives to the state Assembly from today. The elections in Bengal is spread over 6 phases while the 1st phase will be held in two parts.

In Assam, the voting will be held in 2 phases – 4 April and 11 April, 2016.

West Bengal Assembly Elections 2016

  • Total number of seats at stake is 294.
  • Total electors: 6,55,46,101
  • Voting commences on 4 April and concludes on 5 May, 2016.
  • Total number of polling stations: 77,247, an increase of 48.7% over 2011 elections.
  • Counting of votes will commence on 19 May, 2016.

The dates for polling (all 6 phases) and constituency break-up of the 1st Phase are as follows:

1st Phase

(1A) 4 April – 18 constituencies

Purulia: Total candidates – 72

  • Bandwan (ST): 10 candidates
  • Balarampur: 9
  • Baghmundi: 7
  • Joypur: 8
  • Purulia: 12
  • Manbazar (ST): 5
  • Kashipur: 7
  • Para (SC): 8
  • Raghunathpur (SC): 6

West Midnapore: Total candidates – 39

  • Nayagram (ST): 6 candidates
  • Gopiballavpur: 6
  • Jhargram: 8
  • Salboni: 7
  • Midnapore: 6
  • Binpur (ST): 6

Bankura: Total candidates – 22

  • Ranibundh (ST): 7
  • Raipur (ST): 7
  • Taldangra: 8

(1B) 11 April – 31constituencies

Bankura: Total candidates – 54

  • Saltora (SC): 6 candidates
  • Chhatna: 10
  • Bankura: 6
  • Barjora: 6
  • Onda: 7
  • Bishnupur: 6
  • Katulpur (SC): 4
  • Indus (SC): 5
  • Sonamukhi (SC): 4

West Midnapore: Total candidates – 59

  • Dantan: 4 candidates
  • Keshiary (ST): 6
  • Kharagpur Sadar: 6
  • Narayangarh: 4
  • Sabang: 4
  • Pingla: 5
  • Kharagpur: 5
  • Debra: 4
  • Daspur: 4
  • Ghatal (SC): 5
  • Chandrakona (SC): 5
  • Garbeta: 4
  • Keshpur (SC): 3

Burdwan: Total candidates – 50

  • Pandabeswar: 6
  • Durgapur (East): 6
  • Durgapur (West): 7
  • Raniganj: 5
  • Jamuria: 5
  • Asansol (South): 5
  • Asansol (North): 5
  • Kulti: 6
  • Barbani: 5

2nd Phase

17 April – 56 constituencies

  • Birbhum, Malda, North & South Dinajpur, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri

3rd Phase

21 April -62 constituencies

  • Kolkata, Burdwan, Murshidabad, Nadia

4th Phase

25 April – 49 constituencies

  • Howrah, North 24-Parganas

5th Phase

30 April – 53 constituencies

  • Kolkata, Hooghly, South 24-Parganas

6th Phase

5 May – 25 constituencies

  • East Midnapore, Cooch Behar

Election commission geared up for Bengal polls

Given the history of violence and intimidation during polls in Bengal, the CEC West Bengal is not taking any chances this year and has laid out elaborate arrangements to ensure free and fair polls through all 6 phases of voting.

The seriousness of the situation can be gauged from the fact that Paramilitary forces have been deployed across the state almost a month in advance to ensure that all staff get familiar with the terrain and get a feel of the ground situation prevailing in the state.

All polling stations and important locations will be monitored through CCTVs while the paramilitary forces will also deploy drones to monitor ground situation.

In the 1st phase (1A) of polling on 4 April, 18 constituencies will go to polls. Of these, 13 constituencies have been identified by the EC office as Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected areas. The polling will close at 1600 hours in these 13 constituencies, while in the remaining 5 constituencies, the polling will close at 1800 hours.

High stakes for all political parties

These elections are extremely important for the three major contesting parties – Trinamool Congress, Left Front and the Indian National Congress.

TMC came to power dislodging the well-entrenched Left Front government after an acrimonious election campaign in 2011. Mamata Banerjee led the TMC in that campaign and has since consolidated her hold over the party.

Coming to power riding on the slogan – ‘Maa, Maati, Manush’ and on the back of her strong resistance against the Tata Nano project in Singur. People saw her as their champion against leftist oppression and stagnation. But that was then.

Today, Singur lies largely ignored, with local farmers still awaiting their land to be handed back to them, a promise that remains unfulfilled by the mercurial Mamata Banerjee. In many parts of Bengal, there is resentment against the heavy handed methods of TMC cadres who have been intimidating workers and businesses in pretty much the same way as the Left Front did, when they were in power.

However, Mamata Banerjee can claim credit for a lot of development work that her party has undertaken and completed in areas that were largely ignored by the Left Front government.

Maoist violence affected areas of Junglemahal that was seen by many as ungovernable is today an example of peace and development. And TMC is using this to highlight the change that it has brought. In areas where TMC has a strong presence, it continues to hold its grip.

TMC candidate Sukumar Hansda of Jhargram won the 2011 assembly elections with 44.67% vote share, he continues to remain a strong contender in these elections. While this is true for some parts of Bengal, not much has changed in other areas.

Left-Congress alliance hopes for a comeback

The Left Front that was largely decimated in the previous elections has been making silent inroads at the grass root level but the same has come late. The party cadres have not been able to make huge dents in TMC strongholds but have managed to regain people support in traditional bastions. CPM candidate Amiya Patra is going to be tested from his stronghold area of Taldangra in the 1st phase of voting.

Not confident of taking on the TMC alone, it has joined hands with the fledging Congress to form a loose alliance and take on both the TMC, and the BJP. Like the Left Front, Congress too has been able to hold on to voter confidence in areas that have been its traditional stronghold but lacks the spread to take on TMC alone. In 2011, Nepal Mahato of the Congress won the Baghmundi seat with over 49.48% votes. Congress continues to remain strong here.

While the Left-Congress alliance sees a real chance to take on Didi-led TMC, they remain vary of BJP as the party spoiler. BJP did nurse serious ambitions in West Bengal prior to Bihar polls, however, post-Bihar debacle, they have been more circumspect on their chances in Bengal. Any votes taken away from the TMC is likely to help the Left-Congress alliance. And this is a major cause of concern for Didi.

It will be a grueling month of hectic campaigning by the parties and high stress for the authorities in conducting the month-long polls. The voter turnout in West Bengal today till 1300 hours was 63%. 19 May will reveal the people’s choice.

Assam Assembly Elections 2016

  • Total number of seats at stake is 126.
  • Total candidates: 539
  • Total electors: 1,98,66,496
  • Voting to take place on 4 April and 11 April, 2016.
  • Phase 1 will cover 65 constituencies; Phase 2 will cover 61 constituencies.
  • Total number of polling stations: 24,888, an increase of 4.5% over 2011 elections.
  • Counting of votes will commence on 19 May, 2016.

Congress government still confident despite anti-incumbency

Tarun Gogoi has ruled Assam as Chief Minister for three consecutive terms since 2001 and is now set to fight for his fourth term. He has provided stability in a state that has seen militancy and sectarian strife through turbulent years through 80s and 90s. He now seeks to win his fourth term but faces rising anti-incumbency.

BJP, which had little presence in the state until recently, has gained a lot of ground in the backdrop of growing resentment against illegal Muslim Bangladeshi settlers who have managed to get onto electoral rolls. Unlike in its election strategy of not declaring the CM candidate prior to polls, Amit Shah, President and Chief Campaign strategist for BJP decided to name Sarbanada Sonowal as the CM candidate from BJP.

Several poll predictions are pointing to a close fight between Congress and BJP with Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) to emerge as the likely kingmaker. Both the BJP and Congress have been actively seeking Ajmal’s support, as he happens to wield strong influence amongst Muslim voters.

For BJP, the stakes are very high in Assam. After the debacle in Bihar and diminishing hopes in Bengal, Assam is the only state where BJP fancies a real chance amongst all the states that go to vote this quarter.

At 1545 hours today, the voter turnout in Assam was 66.95%.

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