The by-elections for ten State Assembly seats to be held in West Bengal on Saturday are politically crucial as they will determine whether or not the ruling Left Front that has suffered a series of setbacks in recent polls held in the State is able to reverse the trend and put a check on the string of successes achieved by the Trinamool Congress-Congress electoral alliance.

Counting of votes will be taken up on November 10.

Elaborate security arrangements are in place for the by-elections when 40 companies of Central forces will be supplementing the State police to ensure fair and peaceful polling, Debashis Sen, the State’s Chief Electoral Officer, told The Hindu on Friday.

This is hardly surprising in a State where the ruling Left Front has been cautioning against a conspiracy hatched by the Trinamool Congress to create anarchy and lawlessness and the latter accusing the State Government of “State-sponsored terrorism”.

The by-polls have gained in significance in the wake of an appeal by veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu to those who have been supporting the Congress in the past to back candidates of the Left Front for the sake of ensuring peace and development in the State. Mr Basu’s appeal only goes to indicate that political fortunes have changed considerably in the State since the two major Opposition parties arrived at an electoral understanding that has paid both of them dividends at the cost of the Left Front.

The Trinamool Congress leadership has apparently not given much credence to Mr Basu’s remarks.

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, whose demand for President’s Rule in the State became more strident following the successes achieved by the Trinamool Congress-Congress electoral alliance in the April-May Lok Sabha elections and her joining the Centre, has in recent times been talking of the possibility of early Assembly polls in the State that are due in 2011.

It is against such a backdrop that the by-elections in ten Assembly segments have assumed added importance. Of the seats three were held by the Left Front and the rest by the Trinamool Congress and the Congress.

While the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has fielded candidates for five, nominees of the Communist Party of India are in the contest for two seats.

The All India Forward Bloc, the Revolutionary Socialist Party and the Democratic Socialist Party are in the race for the other three. The Congress is contesting three seats while the Trinamool Congress is in the race for the remaining seven.

All eyes will be on the contest in Belgachia East here in Kolkata where Ramala Chakraborty, widow of senior CPI (M) leader Subhas Chakraborty, is the Left nominee.