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    Bengal polls: Crucial third phase on Wednesday

    Kolkata: An electorate of 1.44 crore is expected to vote on Wednesday in the crucial third phase of West Bengal Assembly polls spread over three districts of Kolkata and North and South 24 Parganas district to decide the fate of 479 candidates including Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

    Tight security arrangements have been made with the deployment of over 600 security force personnel to ensure free, fair and peaceful polling, official sources said. In all 17,792 polling booths have been set up with 97.47 per cent voters having EPICs, Election Commission sources said.

    The 75 constituencies include 11 in Kolkata, 33 in neighbouring North and 31 in South 24-Parganas districts.

    Apart from Bhattacharjee, other prominent candidates in the fray are Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta, Housing Minister Gautam Deb, Transport Minister Ranjit Kundu, the Leader of the Opposition Partha Chatterjee, Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee, former FICCI secretary general Amit Mitra and cinestar Debashree Roy.

    Bhattacharjee is pitted against former state chief secretary and Trinamool Congress candidate Manish Gupta in Jadavpur constituency in South 24 Parganas district, while the former FICCI secretary general was taking on Asim Dasgupta
    in Khardah in North 24 Parganas.

    Although North 24 Parganas was regarded as a Left stronghold, Trinamool Congress has made deep inroads in the district making a clean sweep in the Lok Sabha elections in 2009. Trinamool Congress also made substantial gains in South 24 Parganas where the party won all the four Lok Sabha seats in 2009. The zilla parishad in South 24 Paraganas was also under the party's control of TMC.

    The story is the same in Kolkata where the TMC had captured both the Lok Sabha seats in 2009, besides winning the Kolkata Municipal Corporation poll last year with a huge margin.

    The high voltage campaign witnessed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sharing the dais with Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee at Dum Dum where he hit out at the Left Front government for "failure" on all fronts including law and
    order. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram also made a sharp attack on the LF saying that West Bengal was the worst-governed state in the country.

    Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee led the Front campaign which also saw expelled CPM leader and former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee canvassing for the LF candidates in Ballygunj and Dum Dum. Chatterjee has alleged that a rag tag coalition led by the Trinamool could not be an alternative to the LF.

    The campaign was marked by former CPM MP Anil Basu using foul language against the TC supremo which triggered sharp reactions and led the party to secure a written apology from him.