The first phase of polling for 30 seats in West Bengal and 47 seats in Assam began at 7 am on Saturday amid tight security. More than 73 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 191 candidates in these seats, most of which are located in the once-Naxal-affected Jungle Mahal region. The votes, for both Assam and West Bengal, will be counted on May 2.
In the first phase today, 30 assembly seats are going to polls in West Bengal. These seats come under Purulia, Jhargram, Bankura, Purba Medinipur and Paschim Medinipur. West Bengal is arguably the biggest election prize that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been eyeing in recent times.
The state is witnessing the most high-stakes battle with two-time chief minister Mamata Banerjee facing a tough challenge from the BJP amid a series of defections from her Trinamool Congress to the saffron party and corruption investigations against her party leaders, including her nephew Abhishek Banerjee.
In Assam, the voters can exercise franchise in as many as 11,530 polling booths spread across the poll-bound seats. As many as 264 candidates including 23 women are in the fray in the first phase in Assam. The ruling BJP is seeking a second term with the help of the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and United People's Party Liberal (UPPL) in the state.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal government is seeking re-election in the three-phase polling. Sonowal, not the chief ministerial face this time, is contesting from his seat Majuli in the first phase. The BJP had scripted history in 2016 by ending the 15-year-long Congress rule.