EC rejects TMC's suggestion to club remaining phases
Kolkata: The Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday rejected the Trinamool Congress' suggestion to merge the remaining three phases of voting in West Bengal citing legal and resource constraints.
The TMC had submitted a memorandum to the poll panel for integrating the three phases of polls due to the surge in Covid cases across the state. TMC had pointed out that the state is faced with a "gargantuan need to use all its resources to fight the pandemic but Covid related work was hampered with the elections going on and as a section of government officials are engaged in the poll process". Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee also appealed to the poll panel to club the three remaining phases.
"Mamata had requested the Election Commission to merge phases 6, 7 and 8 to prevent Covid. The EC has rejected her request. There is no doubt now that the BJP, Modi/Shah (Narendra Modi / Amit Shah) and the EC are super spreaders of Covid and are doing it shamelessly," tweeted TMC national vice-president Yashwant Sinha.
In its letter addressed to TMC Rajya Sabha MP Derek O'Brien, Rakesh Sharma, Secretary of ECI drew attention to Sec 30 (d) of RP Act 1951, which specifies "the date or dates on which a poll shall, if necessary, be taken, which or the first of which shall be a date not earlier than the fourteenth day after the last date of withdrawal of candidatures."
"Keeping this statutory requirement in view, notification of the schedule of elections have been issued in which at least a 14-day period has been prescribed for each phase of polls.
Each phase of election is distinct and notified separately under Section 30 of the RP Act 1951. In view of this, your (TMC) submission that 52 days of campaign period has already been availed is misleading and not in accordance with law," the letter stated.
The ECI in its letter reiterated that it has already stopped the election campaign before 72 hours in each of the phases and has also banned campaigning from 7 pm till 10 am as part of Covid measure.
Meanwhile, over one crore voters in West Bengal will decide the political fate of 306 candidates on Thursday, when 43 Assembly constituencies go to polls in the sixth phase, amid a raging second wave of COVID-19, covering all the nine constituencies in North Dinajpur, nine in Nadia, 17 in North 24-Parganas and eight in East Burdwan. Twenty-seven of the candidates who are contesting in this phase are female.
In the 43 Assembly seats that are going for polls on Thursday, in context of the Lok Sabha election results in 2019, TMC had a lead in 24 of the seats against BJP's lead in 19.
The total number of electors, including service voters in these constituencies are 10409948 with 5342702 male electors and 5066990 female voters. The total number of polling booths are 14,480 that includes 10897 main and 3583 auxiliary booths. The number of 80 plus voters are 157290 while 64266 are PWD (Persons with Disabilities) voters. The total number of service electors are 22157, third gender voters are 256 while overseas voters are 15.
Among the 43 Assembly seats — the nine ACs in North Dinajpur include Chopra, Islampur, Goalpokhor, Chakulia, Karandighi, Hemtabad (SC), Kaliganj (SC), Raiganj and Itahar; the nine ACs in Nadia are Karimpur, Tehatta, Palashipara, Kaliganj, Nakashipara, Chapra, Krishnanagar Uttar, Nabadwip and Krishnanagar Dakshin; the 17 ACs in North 24-Parganas are Bagda (SC), Bongaon Uttar (SC), Bongaon Dakshin (SC), Gaighata (SC), Swarupnagar (SC), Baduria, Habra, Ashoknagar, Amdanga, Bijpur, Naihati, Bhatpara, Jagatdal, Noapara, Barrackpur, Khardah and Dum Dum Uttar while the eight ACs in East Burdwan are Bhatar, Purbasthali Dakshin, Purbasthali Uttar, Katwa, Ketugram, Mangalkot, Ausgram (SC) and Galsi (SC).
The Election Commission has deployed 26 general observers, 13 expenditure observers and 13 police observers for the fifth phase of polls. There will be webcasting facilities in 7,466 polling booths and micro observers will be deployed in 20 percent of the booths.
The Election Commission will deploy 779 companies of Central forces for the sixth phase of the election with special emphasis in the Barrackpore Police Commissionerate area as it had witnessed sporadic violence during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. 107 Central force companies will be deployed only for Barrackpore Commissionerate — much higher than the average deployment all through the other constituencies.
The highest deployment of the Commission — 278 companies will be in North 24-Parganas district followed by 181 companies in North Dinajpur district, 163 companies in Nadia district and 157 companies of Central forces in East Burdwan district.
Bongaon Police district in North 24-Parganas will have 69 companies while Barasat Police District will have 59 companies and Basirhat will have 40 companies.
The Asansol-Durgapur Commissionerate under East Burdwan district will have 14 companies of Central forces.