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Poll process begins in 6 districts in Bengal
All eyes will be set on Darjeeling district, for last 2 years it has witnessed violent for creating separate State.
Kolkata: The process for the first phase of polls in the 54 assembly constituencies of West Bengal's six northern districts will start on Thursday with the Election Commission (EC) sounding the bugle with the issue of notification.
The 54 assembly constituencies fall mainly in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Malda districts which will go to polls on April 18.
Security has been beefed up in these districts. Police vigil has also been increased in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar as it shares international border with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
All eyes will be set on Darjeeling district as for the last two years it has witnessed violent agitations for creating a separate state Gorkhaland. The movement has been spearheaded by Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) leadership.
"We have started the process of sealing the international border partially. The border areas are under strict vigil," Darjeeling district magistrate PMK Gandhi said.
As many as 400 intimidators have been identified and 200 arrested as a preventive measure, Gandhi added.
Unofficially, the GJM leadership enjoys an unchallenged political grip over the Darjeeling district, especially in the hilly areas.
During the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Jaswant Singh won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat with the support of the GJM.
But this time the GJM has kept its cards close to the chest and is yet to announce where the party itself will contest in the polls or will support any other party in an area. Darjeeling district has six assembly seats.
The Malda district will also draw a lot of attention because this is the first assembly election there after the death of strongman ABA Ghani Khan Choudhury. Malda has always been known as the Congress citadel even when the wave of Left Front was very strong in the state.
During the 2006 assembly election, Choudhury expired just days before the first phase of assembly elections.
The Malda district is still considered to be a Congress citadel with Congress leaders and MPs like Mausam Benazir Noor and Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury, who are both relatives of Choudhury, dominating. The Malda district has 12 assembly constituencies.
The Cooch Behar district with nine assembly constituencies is viewed as a Left Front bastion with some pockets of the Congress in the area. According to the 2006 assembly results, Left Front candidates won most of the assembly seats in the district.
The Uttar Dinajpur with nine assembly seats is also considered as a Congress stronghold under the leadership of Congress MP Deepa Das Munsi, the wife of Priya Ranjan Das Munsi. The district has few pockets which are under the control of the Left Front.
The Jalpaiguri district has 12 assembly constituencies while the South Dinajpur has six assembly constituencies.
Both these districts have a strong presence of the Left Front as well as the Congress. There are a few pockets in both the districts where the Trinamool Congress also have a strong presence.
The Trinamool Congress and the Congress, along with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Socialist Unity Centre of India-Communist (SUCI-C) will jointly fight against the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) led Left Front which has been ruling the state since 1977.
The SUCI-C has declared that in some places it will also field candidates against the Congress.
During the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the Trinamool Congress, the Congress and the SUCI-C fought together against the state's ruling Left Front and had bagged 26 out of 42 Lok Sabha seats of the state.