State Election Comm reschedules polls in 4 civic bodies to February 12
Kolkata: The State Election Commission (SEC) on Saturday pushed back polls in four municipal corporations by three weeks and announced that elections will be conducted on February 12. The move comes a day after the Calcutta High Court urged the SEC to postpone the civic polls by 4 to 6 weeks given the surge in Covid cases.
The poll panel had earlier announced that there will be elections in four municipal corporations — Asansol, Bidhannagar, Siliguri and Chandannagar on January 22 and the results will be announced on January 25. However, the Commission is yet to officially announce the date of counting, which is likely to be held on February 15. The timing of the polls will be the same from 7 am to 5 pm and the last hour of polling will be kept for Covid positive people.
The state government on Saturday morning wrote a letter to the Commission making it clear that they don't have any objection if the poll panel decides to postpone the election for another 4 to 6 weeks considering the pandemic situation in the state.
The nominations have been over so it will remain the same. "The date of the poll has been postponed only. We will work on the other modalities like the campaign for the elections and announce the details very soon," an SEC official said.
Sources in the Commission indicated that they are keen to conduct the election in other municipalities by the end of February. "We will speak with the Disaster Management Department to decide the modalities and other aspects related to this election," an SEC official said.
A PIL was filed in Calcutta High Court pleading for postponement of the election because of the escalating Covid situation. The division bench of Chief Justice Prakash Srivastava hearing the PIL asked the state and the Commission to file their affidavits regarding the same.
Advocate appearing for the Commission Jayanta Mitra had said the Commission cannot decide to stop an election because it is the state's responsibility. "According to law, the Commission cannot cancel a pre-declared election but if the disaster management act is implemented in the state, then the election will have to be cancelled," Mitra said.
On the other hand, the advocate appearing for the state added that the Commission only has the authority to cancel the election and the state has got nothing to do with it.
Welcoming the move, Diamond Harbour MP and Trinamool Congress national general-secretary Abhishek Banerjee tweeted: "I wholeheartedly thank Hon'ble High Court & SEC for postponing polls by 3 weeks in the state. Let us work UNITEDLY to ensure that the positivity rate in Bengal is BROUGHT DOWN to LESS THAN 3% IN THE NEXT 3 WEEKS. The need of the hour is to strengthen the fight against #COVID !"
TMC leader Firhad Hakim said that the party is always ready to abide by any guidelines by the SEC in matters related to polls.
"We had demanded that the polls should be pushed back considering the rise in Covid cases. So we welcome the decision," BJP leader Joyprakash Majumdar said.