Kolkata | Jagran Politics Desk: The much-awaited assembly elections in West Bengal will begin on Saturday with 30 constituencies going to polls. The polling will begin at 7 am and continue till 6 pm to ensure that all necessary COVID-19 protocols and standard operating procedures (SOPs) are followed.

For the first phase of polling, the Election Commission has said that nearly 700 companies of central forces have been deployed across 10,288 polling booths housed in 7,061 premises to ensure law and order. Each company consists of 100 personnel.

Apart from central forces, the poll body has also deployed over 22,000 state police personnel for the first phase of polling.

"The central forces will be mainly deployed in and around the booths and the state force will be used for the maintenance of law and order. The constables will be used for the queue management," news agency PTI quoted an EC official as saying.

As per the official EC figures, 73.80 lakh people -- 37.52 lakh males, 36.27 females and 55 third gender voters -- will decide the fate of 191 candidates in the first phase.

A fierce contest expected between TMC, BJP and Left alliance

This year, West Bengal will witness a triangular contest between Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress-Left Alliance.

Though the BJP had performed poorly in the last assembly polls, it is buoyed by its success in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections where it won 18 of 42 parliamentary seats and is expecting to end the 10-year rule of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Several TMC leaders, including Suvendu Adhikari and Dinesh Trivedi, have also joined the BJP, boosting the saffron party camp.

The TMC, however, looks less worried and believes that it will once again win the West Bengal Polls. The Congress-Left alliance, on the other hand, is expecting to make a comeback after 10 years in the state.

What about BJP, TMC and Congress-Left alliance in first phase?

In the first phase, both the BJP and TMC are contesting on 29 of 30 seats. The Congress-Left alliance, on the other hand, have fielded candidates on all 30 seats. As per the official seat-sharing arrangements of the opposition alliance, the Left is fighting in 18 seats, Congress in 10 and ISF two.

The first phase of polling will decide the fate of several heavyweight candidates -- including BJP's Narahari Mahato (a former Forward Bloc MP), Left alliance's Dhirendra Nath Mahato, Congress' Phanibhushan Kumar and Nepal Mahato and TMC's Sushanta Mahato.

Among the other notable seats going to the polls in the first phase is Salboni, where the CPI(M) has fielded former minister Susanta Ghosh against BJP''s Rajib Kundu and TMC''s Srikanta Mahata. Ghosh, the MLA of Garbeta from 1987 to 2016, was in jail in the skeleton recovery case and is at present out on bail.

The TMC has fielded actor June Malia, a known face in the Bengali silver screen, from the Medinipur seat against BJP''s Samit Kumar Dash. The Left-led alliance candidate is Tarun Kumar Ghosh of the CPI.

In the Ranibandh seat, former Left minister Debalina Hembram is the CPI(M) candidate, while TMC has fielded Jyotsna Mandi and BJP nominated Kshudiram Tudu.

In another significant contest, Santhali actor Birbaha Hansda is fighting on a TMC ticket from Jhargram against BJP''s Sukhamay Satpathy and CPI(M)''s youth leader Madhuja Sen Roy.

The seven seats in Purba Medinipur -- Patashpur, Kanthi Uttar, Bhagabanpur, Khejuri, Kanthi Dakshin, Ramnagar and Egra -- will also be closely watched in a prestige fight between the influential Adhikari family and the TMC.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee campaigned in a majority of the seats going to the polls in the first phase with her nephew and TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee touring the rest, asserting that they would not let Bengal to be ruled from Delhi or Gujarat, in an apparent reference to the BJP and the prime minister.

(With PTI inputs)

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma