Kolkata: Amid heightened security with central forces guarding all polling stations, voting began for seven parliamentary constituencies of West Bengal in phase five of general elections 2019 on Monday.
The polling started at 7 a.m. and would continue till 6 p.m.
The constituencies -- Barrackpore, Bangaon, Howrah, Uluberia, Sreerampur, Hooghly and Arambagh -- are spread over North 24 Paganas, Howrah and Hooghly districts, in what is regarded as the core area of the state's ruling Trinamool Congress on the doorsteps of Kolkata.
In the general elections five years ago, the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress had won all the seven seats.
An electorate of over 1.16 crore, including 60.04 lakh men, 56.86 lakh women and 211 belonging to the third gender, are eligible to choose their representatives from a field of 83 candidates by exercising their democratic rights in 13,290 polling stations spread across 7,691 polling premises.
Seventy one candidates are male, and 12 female.
In North 24 Parganas' Barrackpore, former Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi is taking on his erstwhile "election-manager" Arjun Singh, who crossed over to the BJP in March after he was denied the ticket from Barrackpore by the Trinamool leadership, which reposed faith in Trivedi, a two-time sitting MP from the seat.
Singh's desertion has made cosmopolitan Barrackpore -- an industrial belt with 35-40 per cent non-Bengali voters mostly working in the jute mills and 17 per cent people from the minority community -- an eye-grabbing seat with 15 candidates in fray.
In Bangaon, sitting MP Mamatabala Thakur of the Trinamool -- the present head of the influential scheduled caste community Matua Mahasangh -- is being challenged by her nephew-in-law and BJP aspirant Shantanu Thakur.
Other star candidates whose fate would be decided during the day are sitting Trinamool MPs lawyer Kalyan Banerjee (Sreerampore) and former footballer Prasun Banerjee (Howrah), while the BJP has nominated actress-turned-politician Locket Chatterjee (Hooghly) and senior journalist Rantidev Sengupta (Howrah).
After reports of violence and death of a voter in the previous phases, the Election Commission (EC) has decided that all the polling stations in the state will be manned by the central forces. Altogether, 578 companies of central forces have been mobilised to assist the state police on the morrow.
According to an analysis done by the West Bengal Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms, 15 candidates have assets worth over Rs 1 crore, with 23 declaring criminal cases against themselves.
The subsequent phases of polling in the state will be held on May 12 and May 19. Polling in 18 out of the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in West Bengal have been completed in the first four phases.
The votes will be counted on May 23.