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Poll campaigning for the eighth and final phase of elections for 35 assembly constituencies in West Bengal, scheduled to be held on 29 April, ended at 6.30 pm today.

As many as 84,77,728 voters -- 43,55,835 male, 41,21,735 women and 158 of the third gender are eligible to decide the fate of 283 candidates in Thursday's polling, which will be held in six constituencies of Malda, 11 in Murshidabad, seven in Kolkata North and 11 in Birbhum, Election Commission sources informed news agency PTI.

The polling will be held between 7 am to 6.30 pm in 11,860 polling stations, they added.

TMC, BJP, CPI(M) file candidates

While 11 candidates each have been fielded by Trinamool Congress, BSP and BJP, CPI(M) are contesting in four seats, Congress in three, AIFB in 2 and RSP (1), the report said. There are four Independent candidates in the fray as well.

The focus in this phase of polling will be on five assembly constituencies in Kolkata north -- Beleghata, Jorsanko, Shyampukur, Maniktala, Kashipur-Belgachia -- as neck and neck contest is expected between TMC heavyweights and BJP challengers.

In Shyampukur's seat, state minister for Women and Child Development and Social Welfare Shashi Panja is contesting against BJP's Sandipan Biswas and AIFB's Jiban Prakash Saha. In Beleghata, TMC has fielded Paresh Paul against BJP's Kashinath Biswas and CPI-M's Rajib Biswas.

In Jorasnko, BJP has named Meena Devi Purohit against TMC's Vivek Gupta and Congress' Ajmal Khan.

The TMC has named Atin Ghosh in Kashipur-Belgachia against BJP candidate Sibaji Sinha Roy and CPI(M)'s Pratip Dasgupta.

A close contest is also expected in Maniktala assembly seat where state Consumer Affairs Minister TMC veteran Sadhan Pandey will fight former India footballer and BJP candidate Kalyan Chaubey and CPI(M)'s Rupa Bagchi.

Political experts are sensing a tough fight in the Bolpur assembly seat of Birbhum where the BJP has fielded Anirban Ganguly against state minister Chandranath Sinha. A keen contest is also expected in Nanoor, Murari and Labhpur.

They are also expecting a similar contest between the ruling TMC and the opposition BJP and Samyukta Morcha (Cong- CPI-M-ISF alliance) candidates in Malda district and 11 seats in Murshidabad district.

7th phase of Bengal polls see 75.06% voter turnout

The seventh phase of West Bengal assembly polls was held peacefully with an estimated voter turnout of 75.06% till 5 pm on Monday, according to the Election Commission.

Voting began at 7 am on Monday amid tight security and concluded at 6 pm.

Voting was held in 11,376 polling stations spread across 34 assembly constituencies in five districts.

Among the 34 constituencies that went to polls in Phase-VII, six are in Dakshin Dinajpur, six in Malda, nine in Murshidabad, nine in Paschim Bardhaman and four in Kolkata.

EC bans roadshows, vehicle rallies

With the EC banning roadshows and vehicle rallies in the state after the recent surge in COVID-19 cases across the country as well as in West Bengal, leaders of political parties chose to either campaign virtually or hold small rallies with a maximum of 500 participants.

The EC has booked and show-caused several candidates for flouting the COVID-19 safety norms.

TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee and her party MP Abhishek Banerjee held virtual campaigns as did Prime Minister Narendra Modi from New Delhi.

BJP president J P Nadda, it's West Bengal head Dilip Ghosh, Bollywood superstar Mithun Chakraborty and other star campaigners like Smriti Irani held small rallies to campaign for the party's candidates contesting in the eighth phase of polling.

The BJP leaders attacked Banerjee and her nephew and other party leaders alleging that they were involved in the Saradha and Narada tapes scams. The saffron party also claimed that they were responsible for siphoning of funds allocated for Amphan cyclone and COVID-19 pandemic relief.

The BJP leaders maintained that corruption and anarchy are prevalent in West Bengal and that the party will put an end to it after coming to power in the state.

The TMC supremo hit out at the BJP for the rising prices of petrol, diesel and LPG and also held it responsible for the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

She also alleged that the prime minister in order to capture West Bengal had forgotten about the entire country which is facing a crisis because of the COVID-19 second wave.

With agency inputs

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