The third and, perhaps, most crucial phase of the West Bengal Assembly elections will be held on Wednesday to decide the fate of 12 Ministers, including Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

A total of 479 candidates are in the fray for 75 seats spanning Kolkata and North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas districts, which have an electorate of 1,44,68,577. Among the six phases, the third will have the distinction of having the highest number of constituencies going to the polls.

Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta said here on Tuesday, “Armed paramilitary force will be deployed in all 11,792 polling booths. Apart from that, a three-tier security system will be in place around each booth so that people can cast their votes peacefully, without any fear of intimidation.”

While a special observer has been sent by the Election Commission to oversee the third-phase polling, radio flying squads will move around in the city so that security personnel can respond to any incident within five minutes. More than 600 companies of Central forces have been deployed.

Besides Mr. Bhattacharjee, some of the important Ministers in the fray are Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta, Minister for the Sunderbans Affairs Kanti Ganguly, Housing Minister Goutam Deb, Transport Minister Ranjit Kundu and Land and Land Reforms Minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah.

Some other significant candidates are Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Partha Chatterjee, Mayor of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation Shovan Chatterjee, the former FICCI general secretary, Amit Mitra, the former CBI Joint Director, Upen Biswas, the former Home Secretary, Manish Gupta (all Trinamool Congress), and the youngest Left Front candidate, Satarup Ghosh, who is 25.

While the voting pattern of the five-million-strong Matua sect can have a bearing on the outcome in at least 15 constituencies in North 24 Parganas, the minority factor and the issues of rehabilitation of the ‘Aila' cyclone victims could play a major role in determining the results in South 24 Parganas.

The success of the Trinamool Congress in the region in the 2008 panchayat elections, the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and the 2010 municipal elections is considered an advantage to give the party an edge over the Left Front, but the Left Front too has claimed to have clawed back a sizeable portion of lost ground.