West Bengal phase one campaign ends

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ON THE ALERT: BSF personnel keeping a vigil at the Muchia outpost in Malda district of West Bengal on Saturday ahead of the Assembly election.
ON THE ALERT: BSF personnel keeping a vigil at the Muchia outpost in Malda district of West Bengal on Saturday ahead of the Assembly election.

Special Correspondent

227 candidates are contesting in 45 constituencies that go to the polls on April 17

Trinamool Congress' Mamata Banerjee campaigns for Paschimbanga Ganatantrik FrontPranab Mukherjee, Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi campaign for Congress-led United Democratic Alliance

Kolkata: Campaigning for the first of the five-phase Assembly elections in West Bengal, to be held on April 17 in 45 constituencies in Pashchim Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia districts, ended on Saturday afternoon.

The fate of 227 candidates will be decided. Elaborate security arrangements are being made to ensure peaceful elections in areas which have been affected by Maoist activity in the recent past.

West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee spearheaded the Left Front campaign in the region, addressing rallies in Purulia and Bankura.

Star campaigner

The star campaigner for the Paschimbanga Ganatantrik Front was Trinamool Congress leader, Mamata Banerjee. At some rallies jointly organised by the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, Ms. Banerjee was accompanied by BJP leader Arun Jaitley. Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi led the campaign for the Congress-led United Democratic Alliance.

Electioneering in these areas picked up after April 13 when the use of loudspeakers was permitted following the completion of the Higher Secondary examinations in the State. The ban on poll graffiti pushed political parties to innovative ways of reaching out to the electorate.

Main plank

While the need for greater industrialisation, increasing employment opportunities and overall economic development formed the main plank of Mr. Bhattacharjee's speeches, Ms. Banerjee focused on the `failures' and the `misrule' of the Left Front Government since it first came to power in 1977. Despite expressing regrets for not succeeding in forming a "mahajot" (grand alliance) of anti-Left forces, she said her party and the Front it led, which included the BJP, was the only viable alternative to the Left in the State.

Pledge to fight extremists

Inhis campaign, Mr. Bhattacharjee reiterated the Left Front's pledge to counter Maoist insurgency in the region through the implementation of schemes aimed at socio-economic development. He said he was determined to deal firmly with the extremists. The Maoists have called for a boycott of the coming polls.

Biman Bose, secretary of the State committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and chairman of the Left Front criticised an Election Commission directive stipulating a re-poll in booths where the turnout was unusually high. "If a re-poll is ordered in the event of the turn-out being 85 per cent, the voters will come out in larger numbers and ensure a 87 per cent turn-out as a protest against the directive," he said at a meet-the-press programme here.



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