Kolkata: Polling began this morning in the sixth and last phase of Assembly election in the two districts of East Midnapore and Coochbehar amidst strict security. An electorate of over 58 lakh is eligible to cast their ballots at 6,774 polling stations between 7 AM to 6 PM in 25 constituencies.
In all, 170 candidates, including 18 women, are in the fray for the last phase of elections. Maintaining a tight security cover, the poll panel has deployed 361 companies of central forces assisted by a contingent of 12,000 state police personnel.
Prohibitory orders under section 144 of the CrPC have been promulgated on the polling day and enforced strictly to ensure that any unlawful assembly is effectively curbed. Out of the total electors, 27.8 lakh are womem while the third gender constitutes a small minority of 68 voters.
The weather is expected to be pleasant with thundersquall occurring in many places in the two districts in the past hours. The weatherman in fact have predicted heavy showers in Coochbehar district, in particular.
For the first time since Independence, residents of border enclaves in Coochbehar will be able to exercise their franchise, thanks to the formal inclusion of enclaves in the Indian territory last year.
There are 9,776 voters in the enclave, for whom special arrangements and awareness programmes have been done. Among them is 103-year-old Asgar Ali of Madhya Mashaldanga who is eligible to vote for the first time in his life.
In East Midnapore, on the other hand, the district administration has taken special measures to make the elections a disabled-friendly one. They have pinpointed 15,500 persons with disability in the electoral rolls. Each polling premises has a wheelchair, ramp with handrails and braille signage.
In the two districts, the commission has so far identified 714 vulnerable 'hamlets' and 1,685 vulnerable voters. Close to 900 trouble-mongers have been identified and action taken against all of them.
All eyes are on Nandigram in East Midnapore district where a violent anti-land acquisition movement had played a key role in ousting the 34-year-long Left Front government.
Trinamool Congress, which had won all 16 seats in East Midnapore district in 2011, has now fielded its Tamluk MP Suvendu Adhikari from Nandigram, who is pitted against CPI's Abdul Kabir Sheikh supported by the Congress-Left alliance.
State Environment Minister Sudarshan Ghosh Dastidar is another heavyweight in the fray defending his Mahisadal seat.