The third phase of the West Bengal Assembly elections is all set to witness a three-corner fight between the Trinamool Congress (TMC), BJP and the Left Front-Congress-Indian Secular Front (ISF) alliance. Thirty-one Assembly constituencies in three districts will go to polls in the third phase on April 6.

Despite TMC’s electoral dominance in the poll-bound seats, the increase in BJP’s vote share in the last Lok Sabha elections and the possibility of the ISF eating into TMC’s minority vote base due to the considerable influence of its founder Abbas Siddiqui, a Muslim cleric, among the minority population of the poll-bound South 24 Parganas district, make this a tough election. The TMC led in all the 31 Assembly seats in its bastion in South 24 Paraganas in the last Lok Sabha elections.

The TMC won 29 out of the 31 poll-bound seats in the 2016 Assembly elections and got 50.18 per cent votes. It even managed to increase its vote share in the last Lok Sabha elections, taking it up to 51.05 per cent. However, despite drawing a blank in these seats in the last Assembly elections and getting only 6.91 per cent votes, the BJP’s vote share shot up to 37.45 per cent in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The Left Front constituent CPI(M) won only one seat and the Front got 28.80 per cent votes while the Congress also won one seat and got 9.71 per cent votes in the last Assembly elections. However, witnessing a sharp decline in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Left Front’s vote share came down to 6.71 per cent and Congress’s vote share came down to 1.62 per cent. While the TMC led in 29 out of the 31 Assembly seats in the last Lok Sabha elections, the BJP led in two seats.

There may also be a consolidation of Hindu votes in BJP’s favour. BJP sources said that the party was optimistic since several TMC leaders including MLAs have joined the party and will likely have an impact on the outcome of the elections.

While 16 seats in the district will go to polls in the third phase, four went to polls in the second phase. Eleven more seats in the district will go to polls in the fourth phase.

The fate of 205 candidates will be decided by more than 78.5 lakh voters in the third phase. Among the key candidates, there are BJP leader Swapan Dasgupta, CPI(M) leader Kanti Ganguly and TMC Minister Ashima Patra.

Polls will be held under heavy deployment of Central Forces and strict adherence to Covid-19 protocols. According to sources in the Election Commission (EC), 618 companies of CAPF will be deployed in 10,871 polling stations, all of them categorised as “sensitive.”

According to a release issued by the West Bengal Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms, 53 (26 per cent) candidates in the third phase have criminal cases against them while 43 (21 per cent) candidates have serious criminal cases against them. There are 33 (16 per cent) crorepati candidates and the average asset of candidates is 78.56 lakh.

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