Phase II in Purba Medinipur, Hooghly and Bardhaman

The stage is all set for the second of the five-phase panchayat elections in West Bengal with the three districts of Purba Medinipur, Hooghly and Bardhaman going to the polls on Monday.

 The elections for over 28,000 seats in the three-tier local bodies will be held in these districts where 12,500 booths have been set up. Nearly 50 per cent of them have been graded as sensitive.

 As per the Supreme Court’s June 28 order, 50,000 security forces that include 35,000 personnel from the State security forces and 15,000 from the Central armed police forces would be deployed during the polls, officials said.

 The Central forces will, however, be posted in barely 10 per cent of the sensitive booths given the stipulated distribution pattern of forces, they added.

 Singur and Nandigram — the launching pads for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in her political ascendancy — are among the key areas that will be going to the polls in this round. All eyes will be on these two places to see whether she has been able to retain her hold among the people.

 There are a staggering 108 Independent candidates reportedly fielded by factions of the ruling Trinamool Congress in the two blocks in Nandigram.

 There will be no contest in about 8 per cent of the total seats in the three rural bodies as the only candidates left in the fray there are those who belong to the Trinamool.

The Left Front and the Congress alleged that their nominees in these seats were either prevented from filing nomination papers or forced to withdraw them by activists of the ruling party.

 On the eve of the election entering its second round, the issue of motorcycle brigades of Trinamool activists intimidating people continued to be the bone of contention among the major parties.

 Even though the Calcutta High Court sought explanation from the State government for not taking steps to prevent these brigades from roaming the areas, Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee said “it is not illegal to ride two-wheelers.” Those doing so have been issued licences by the government and such a mode of transport was a necessity to reach certain far-flung areas, he added.

Reacting to his remarks CPI (M) State secretariat member Rabin Deb said that such utterances would only incite activists of the Trinamool Congress “to further acts of terror.”