Men and women of various age groups queued up before polling booths, as voting began at 7 a.m. for five West Bengal constituencies in phase three of the Lok Sabha polls on Tuesday.
Balurghat, Malda North, Malda South, Jangipur and Murshidabad constituencies are up for grabs in this leg. The polling would continue till 6 p.m.
A total of 80,23,846 voters are eligible to register their choice in 8,528 polling stations to decide the fate of 61 candidates, six of them women.
The Balurghat constituency is witnessing an intense battle between sitting Trinamool MP Arpita Ghosh, BJP nominee Sukanta Majumdar and Ranen Barman of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), a constituent of the Left Front.
In Jangipur, former President Pranab Mukherjee's son Abhijit Mukherjee of the Congress faces a tough battle as he seeks a hat-trick of wins from the constituency, which had sent his father to the Parliament twice.
The Trinamool nominee is Khalilur Rahaman, while the BJP has given ticket to Mafuja Khatun, the party's only Muslim woman candidate in this election. Zulfiqar Ali of the CPI(M) is also in the fray.
The tussle in Malda North is between cousins Isha Khan Choudhury of the Congress and incumbent MP Mausam Noor, who had won on a Congress ticket in 2014 but had deflected to Trinamool in Januray this year.
The BJP candidate from Malda North is another turncoat, Khagen Murmu, who crossed over from the CPI-M recently. The CPI-M has nominated Biswanath Ghosh.
In Malda South, Congress veteran and sitting MP Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury, the father of Isha Khan Choudhury, is up against Trinamool's Md Moazzem Hossain and Sreerupa Mitra Choudhury of the BJP. The CPI-M has not put up a candidate from here and is supporting Abu Hasem.
In 2014, the Congress had bagged Malda North, Malda South and Jangipur, while Balurghat went to the Trinamool and Murshidabad had a CPI-M winner.
According to an analysis by the West Bengal Election Watch and the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), 11 of the 61 candidates have assets worth over Rs 1 crore, while 15 (25 per cent) have declared criminal cases against their names.
The subsequent phases of polls will be held on April 29, May 6, May 12 and May 19.
The votes will be counted on May 23.
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