700 companies of Central police forces being deployed in Maoist-hit region

Campaigning ended at 3 p.m. on Sunday for the sixth and final phase of the West Bengal Assembly elections in which 14 constituencies spread over the Maoist-affected districts of Paschim Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia will go to the polls on May 10.

The fate of 97 candidates will be decided in this phase.

Of the constituencies, seven are in Paschim Medinipur, four in Purulia and three in Bankura districts. Among those in the fray are Sushanta Ghosh, CPI(M) Minister for Pashimanchal Unnayan Affairs, and the former convener of the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PSBJC), Chhatradhar Mahato, now incarcerated in the Midnapore Central Correctional Home. He is contesting the Jhargram seat as an Independent. Mr. Mahato was arrested in September 2009 from Lalgarh. He was subsequently booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

In all, 700 companies of Central police forces are being deployed, besides a massive presence of the State police, in the region that has been rocked by Maoist violence over the past months. Aerial surveillance has already begun.

Campaigning has largely been done door to door, given the threat of violence by the Maoists who have called for a poll boycott. The Left parties have complained that their candidates were not allowed to campaign freely, with threats from the Maoists looming large.

Despite the boycott call, the Polit Bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), Kishanji, has reportedly said the outfit will not prevent anyone from exercising his or her franchise.