(left) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during a public meeting in Midnapore on Thursday. Mamata Banerjee held rally on the last day of campaigning for first phase of WB polls. (PTI)
(right) Polling and Presiding officers casting their vote through Postal Ballot during the Assam Assembly election polls -2021 first phase at DC Office, Tezpur in Sonitpur district on Thursday. (ANI)
CURTAINS came down at 5 pm on Thursday on the high decibel campaign in first phases of Legislative elections in West Bengal and Assam, leaving the contesing parties to resort to door-to-door voter-contact drives, even as opinion polls predicted return of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal and the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Assam. Both the States would go to polls in the first phase on March 27. The 30 seats in West Bengal are spread across tribal-dominated Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, Purba Medinipur (Part 1) and Paschim Medinipur (Part 1) districts which were once considered the citadel of the Left in the State. As many as 47 constituencies in Assam will go to polls, with a total of 269 candidates in the arena.
The campaign for the seats saw high profile leaders of BJP, which has emerged as the main Opposition to the ruling Trinamool Congress, addressing poll rallies in Purulia, Jhargram and Bankura districts promising ‘ashol poriborton’ (actual change) to build ‘Sonar Bangla’ (prosperous West Bengal). In Assam, BJP is contesting in 39 of the 47 seats while its alliance partner the AGP in 10, including two where it is in friendly contest against the BJP. The Congress is contesting in 43 seats and its allies AIUDF, RJD, Anchalik Gana Morcha (as independent) and CPI-ML in one seat each. Assam Jatiya Parishad is contesting in 41 seats while the Raijor Dal is contesting in 19 seats as independents.
A total of 78 independents are in the fray in the first phase. There are 23 women candidates in the fray in the first phase, Election Commission sources said. The star BJP campaigners for the seats going to poll in the first phase were Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. The other star campaigners of BJP were Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, party President Jagat Prakash Nadda, top leader Smriti Irani who repeatedly harped on the various scams. They attacked Mamata Banerjee’s party for the multi-crore rupees Saradha scam, the Narada tapes scandal to the more recent alleged siphoning of money meant for Amphan relief and the TMC Government’s dealing with COVID-19 pandemic.
The BJP leaders virulently attacked the Mamata Banerjee Government for not allowing the implementation of central schemes like the Ayushman Bharat, PM Kisan Samman Nidhi and 80 others aimed at helping the poor, Dalits, tribals and people from the marginalised sections. Implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 was the Central issue in Assam, which was rocked by violence and protests against it, but BJP, which had steered the Central legislation in Parliament maintained a studied silence on it. The issue did not find place in the campaigning by the party nor in its manifesto. However, party President J P Nadda’s comment that it is an act of Parliament and will be implemented saw protests across the State by political parties students union AASU.
The Congress on the other hand assured that if voted to power, it will bring a legislation in the Assembly so that the act is not implemented in Assam. The hectic campaigning for the first phase was marked by poll meetings by several national leaders of the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress, who crisis crossed the State to garner support for their respective parties. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had led the campaign brigade for BJP and its alliance partner, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP). The other BJP leaders who wooed the voters in Assam were BJP President J P Nadda, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar, who is also party’s State in-charge.