The campaign drums fell silent Tuesday for the first phase of the Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal, covering the four constituencies of Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling that go to the hustings Thursday. Canvassing in the four constituencies came to end at 6 p.m. after weeks of hectic meetings, rallies, road shows, foot marches and street corner gatherings as the candidates went all out to woo the voters.
Political bigwigs like BJP prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee among others raised the poll pitch. Bollywood actor Mithun Chakraborty and reigning Bengali film hero Dev alias Dipak Adhikari also hit the campaign trail for the Trinamool.
As many as 6,023,258 electors including 2,900,024 female voters will exercise their franchise in the first phase which has 47 candidates in the fray. Voting will take place in 7,443 booths which include the three highest polling stations in the state - Srikhola Primary School nearly 2,800 m higher than sea level, the Daragaon Junior High School and the Rammam Forest Primary School around 2,600 m above sea level, all in the Darjeeling hills.
All the major parties - the CPI-M led Left Front, the ruling Trinamool, the Congress and the BJP among others have fielded candidates for all the four seats. But all eyes are on the Darjeeling seat where football icon Bhaichung Bhutia of the Trinamool is pitted against S.S. Ahluwalia of the BJP and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) combine.
On the security front, around 120 companies of central paramilitary forces will be deployed across the three districts of Darjeeling, Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri. Security has been stepped up along the borders with neighbouring nations Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan as also with the adjacent state Assam to ensure free and fair polls and check any subversive activities by the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation.