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Election

62 seats up for grabs in Bengal polls third phase

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Kolkata, April 20 : The high-octane West Bengal assembly election reaches an exciting leg on Thursday, with the poll caravan moving to the historic Murshidabad district that was once the capital of the Nawabs of Bengal, Bihar and Odisha, and reaches upto a part of Kolkata in the third phase of the staggered month-long exercise.

Polling will also take place in Nadia district, the birthplace of Vaishnava saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and also for some of the seats in Burdwan, considered the rice bowl of India.

Over 1.37 crore (1,37,42,000) voters are eligible to choose their legislators in 62 constituencies across 16,461 polling stations, including 10 auxiliary booths, from a field of 418 candidates — 34 of them female.

All 22 constituencies are going to the hustings in Murshidabad, regarded as a bastion of the Congress, and particularly of its dashing state president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

Besides, the entire lot of 17 constituencies in Nadia will also be up for grabs. Seven seats in north Kolkata and 16 in Burdwan complete the list.

Murshidabad is a crucial test for the newly formed Congress-Left Front alliance, with the partners locked in a fight among themselves in 10 of the 22 constituencies.

Congress candidates are up against Revolutionary Socialist Party nominees in five constituencies, and take on Communist Party of India-Marxist contestants in four and the All India Forward Bloc in one seat.

The state’s ruling Trinamool Congress is traditionally weak in the district, but political pundits feel the lack of total unity in the Left-Congress camp may give it a boost in a few seats.

Close fights are also on the cards at Nadia, where the alliance has achieved unity in all but the Krishnaganj seat — that pits the Congress against the CPI-M.

The erstwhile ‘red fort’ of Burdwan, that collapsed like a pack of cards in the Trinamool surge in 2011, when the Left Front was ousted from power in the state, is also likely to witness a see-saw battle between the alliance and the Trinamool. Nine constituencies of the district had voted on April 11.

The Trinamool Congress is hoping big on the seven seats in Kolkata north, but the alliance is also keen to pull up some surprises.

In the assembly polls in the 62 constituencies five years back, then allies Trinamool and Congress had captured 45 seats, with the Trinamool taking 29 and the Congress 16.

Among the Left Front partners, the CPI-M had won 14, and the Revolutionary Socialist Party, Samajwadi Party and All India Forward Bloc one each.

In this phase, Ranaghat South in Nadia is the largest constituency electorate-wise, and Ausgram in Burdwan district the biggest in terms of area. Shyampukar constituency in Kolkata (North) has the least number of electors.

Among the major candidates in this phase are state ministers and Trinamool contestants Sashi Panja, Sadhan Pandey, Subrata Saha, former state minister and CPI-M candidates Anisur Rahaman and Debesh Das, Congress legislature party leader Md. Sohrab and former state party presdient Somendranath Mitra and Ritesh Tiwari from the BJP.

Of the 418 candidates in the fray, 61 are crorepatis, 80 have criminal cases against them, with 65 of them declaring serious criminal offences like murder and rape against their name.

So far, voters in 105 of the total 294 constituencies have exercised their right to franchise on three dates — April 4, 11 and 17 — in the first two phases.

West Bengal is having a staggered six-phase election. Polling for the remaining phases will be held on April 25, 30 and May 5.

Election

Congress forms 5-party Mahagathbandhan to take on BJP in Assam

AIUDF General Secretary Aminul Islam said the Mahagathbandhan is good for Assam as it would fulfil the expectations of the people of the state and throw the BJP out of power.

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BJP and Congress Flag Poster

Guwahati, Jan 20: The opposition Congress on Tuesday announced a five-party ‘Mahagathbandhan’ to take on the ruling BJP-led coalition in Assam in the upcoming Assembly elections expected to be held in April-May.

Announcing the Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance), Assam Congress President Ripun Bora said that his party would contest the elections in alliance with the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the three Left parties – Communist Party of India-Marxist, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) – and the Anchalik Gana Morcha (AGM).

He said that regional parties are welcome to join the Mahagathbandhan to oust the Bharatiya Janata Party from power in the state.

“The Congress is always keen to oust all communal forces for the best interest of the country. People are ready to vote out the BJP as its misgovernance caused a lot of distress to the people, who have become fed up with the BJP,” he said.

AIUDF General Secretary Aminul Islam said the Mahagathbandhan is good for Assam as it would fulfil the expectations of the people of the state and throw the BJP out of power.

AGM President Ajit Kumar Bhuyan, also a Rajya Sabha member, termed the formation of the grand alliance as a historic moment. He sounded optimistic that the grand alliance would defeat the BJP in the forthcoming elections.

Besides the AIUDF, a Muslim-dominated party in Assam, and the Left parties, state Congress leaders had held several meetings in the past few months with the ‘like minded parties’.

AIUDF President and Lok Sabha member Maulana Badruddin Ajmal has been stating that the two parties (Congress and AIUDF) have decided to contest the Assembly polls together since their tie-up for the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) polls held last month.

Recently, interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi had appointed three central leaders — Bhupesh Baghel (Chhattisgarh Chief Minister), Mukul Wasnik (AICC General Secretary) and Shakeel Ahmed Khan (Bihar MLA) — to oversee the election campaign in Assam in close coordination with the AICC general secretaries and the party in-charge for the state.

Baghel and other central leaders held meetings with the state party leaders in Guwahati before Assam Congress chief announced the Mahagathbandhan.

The Congress had suffered a setback in the recent elections to the BTC and the Tiwa Autonomous Council. Two of its MLAs – Ajanta Neog and Rajdeep Goala – had joined the BJP last month, delivering another blow to the party.

In the 2016 Assam assembly elections, the Congress had contested on its own without an electoral alliance with any party, securing 24 seats.

After the last Assembly polls, the BJP formed the government in Assam for the first time after winning 60 seats following the formation of an alliance with the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which won 14 and 12 seats, respectively. The ruling alliance also has the support of an Independent MLA.

The 126-member Assam Assembly is likely to go to the polls in April-May along with West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.

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Election

Sonia forms 10-member election panel for Kerala chaired by Chandy

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Sonia Gandhi in Cong meeting

New Delhi, Jan 20: Eyeing the assembly polls in Kerala, the Congress on Tuesday announced a 10-member Election Management and Strategy Committee under the leadership of former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy as its chairperson along with senior party members like Shashi Tharoor and K. C. Venugopal.

Venugopal, who is the party’s General Secretary (Organisations) in a statement said that party chief Sonia Gandhi has approved the appointment of Election Management and Strategy Committee of Kerala Congress for the upcoming assembly elections with immediate effect.

He further said that the Committee shall meet frequently to discuss matters related to electioneering, co-ordination and formulation of election strategies.

Besides Chandy, Tharoor and Venugopal, the party has also named Mullapallay Ramachandran, Ramesh Chennithala, Tariq Anwar, K. Muraleedharan, V.M. Sudheeran, K. Sudhakaran and Kodikkunnil Suresh as the panel members.

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Election

Bengal: Left, Congress leaders hold talks; to finalise candidates by Jan end

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Congress

Kolkata, Jan 18: Top leaders of the CPI(M)-led Left Front and the Congress conducted a meeting here on Sunday to discuss the seat-sharing and other election-related strategies, leaders of both the parties said, adding that their candidates would be finalised by the end of this month.

However, both the Congress and Left leaders said that they would hold more such meetings this month to finalise the candidates’ list for the upcoming Assembly elections, expected to be held in April-May.

Both the party leaders would meet again on January 25 and 28 to settle the seat-sharing issue and other poll-related preparedness.

In 2016 West Bengal Assembly polls, the two parties had forged an alliance and won 76 seats in the 294-member Assembly.

Post meeting, Left Front Chairman and CPI-M politburo member Biman Bose said that their discussion with the Congress was cordial and fruitful.

“To defeat the communal force BJP and the fascist TMC (Trinamool Congress), the Congress-Left parties’ alliance is must. The alliance would definitely thrash the binary rule in Bengal,” the veteran Left leader told the media.

Bose said that leaders and workers of Left parties and Congress should fight against the BJP and the TMC with shoulder to shoulder.

Party sources said that the Congress wanted to contest in 130 seats but the Left leaders did not concede the demand.

Bengal Congress chief and the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Chowdhury said that the seat sharing with the Left parties would not be completed in a single meeting, however, the seat sharing process would be concluded within this month.

CPI-M state secretary Suryakanta Mishra, Congress leaders Abdul Mannan and Pradip Bhattacharjee were present at the meeting.The Left and Congress parties are likely to hold a mega joint rally in Kolkata soon to kick start their election campaign.

The all important elections to the 294-member West Bengal assembly are likely to be held in April-May along with Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.In the 2016 West Bengal polls,

Trinamool had retained its majority and won 211 seats while the Bharatiya Janata Party won three seats.

However, in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Left and Congress had fought separately with the Congress won two seats, the Left Front dominated by the CPI-M, which ruled Bengal for 34 years (1977-2011), drew a blank.

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