High decibel campaign for first phase polls in Bengal ends
The high voltage electioneering in four parliamentary constituencies in West Bengal, which is going to witness Lok Sabha polls in the first phase on April 17, ended this afternoon.
Put in the stake are the fates of 47 candidates to be decided by a total of 6.14 lakh voters in Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling stretching over mountain terrains, foothills, tea gardens and forest areas in the northern part of the state.
Prominent candidates are BJP's S S Ahluwalia and football icon Bhaichung Bhutia, who cross swords as main rivals in Darjeeling respectively on BJP and Trinamool Congress tickets. CPI(M) nominee Saman Pathak, Congress candidate Sujoy Ghatak and independent Mahendra P Lama are also in the 13-cornered fray.
With the statehood movement in Darjeeling refusing to die down even after a truce Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee made with the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJM), political observers are keeping a close watch on the battle for this constituency, where the GJM extends full support to the BJP candidate and the ruling Trinamol Congress tries to wrest the seat.
In the last Lok Sabha elections, the Darjeeling seat was captured by the BJP with the backing of the GJM, while the rest three seats in the foothills were bagged by the Left Front.
Among the star campaigners who visited the region were BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, and CPI(M) Politburo member Sitaram Yechuri.
Addressing a rally in the foothills of Siliguri on April 10, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi attacked Ms Banerjee by calling her development measures 'fake'.
"I can now very well see that the people of Bengala have changed their minds about bringing in change. It has been more than two years since this Government came to power in Bengal, but I can see that the people are already frustrated. This is the time for real change and not the fake one," he said referring to the changes in the 2011 state Assembly elections which brought Mamata to power.
Mr Modi also spoke very highly of the Gorkhas as a community and remarked, "The dream of my Gorkha brothers is also my dream. You should live with honour."
His rally, that drew a sizeable crowd, made Ms Banerjee to go for a hasty visit to Darjeeling even though she had decided not to address any rally in the hills.
Asserting that the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal would not allow any division of Darjeeling, Ms Banerjee said it was bringing in development in the hills with special packages.
She said her government okayed the setting up of ITI, engineering college and projects related with electricity and drinking water. "We are all for development of the hills," the CM said.
Before that, Mr Gandhi and Ms Baneree had a slugfest over central government's aid to West Bengal during the former's visit to Jalpaiguri and Raiganj. He had alleged that the funds sent by the Centre to West Bengal do not reach the people.
"People had hoped the new government will work for development, for education, for creating jobs and employment, but unfortunately the Trinamool government has done the same thing for which it fought against the communists," Mr Gandhi said.
However, Ms Banerjee, who was campaigning in North Bengal, retorted to Gandhi's charges.
"They are coming and lying to people. The Centre is not giving us funds, which we rightfully deserve. They are cheating you. Don't cast a single vote to the Congress," she said.
Earlier, CPI(M) Politburo member Sitaram Yechuri had attacked both the BJP and the Congress and called for backing the Left. He also came down heavily on the Trinamool Congress Government, led by Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal.
(Posted on 15-04-2014)