ECI says there is no plan to clubb the remaining phases.
West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee has urged the Election Commission of India to consider holding polls for all the remaining Assembly constituencies in West Bengal on a single day, instead of following the existing schedule with four phases still to go.
So far, elections have been held for 135 seats, and the remaining 159 go to the polls between April 17 and 29.
“Amid an ongoing pandemic, we firmly opposed ECI’s decision to conduct West Bengal polls in eight phases. Now, in view of the huge surge in #COVID19 cases, I urge ECI to consider holding the remaining phases in ONE go. This will protect the people from further exposure to #COVID19,” Ms. Banerjee tweeted.
Party insiders said, that the Trinamool would be raising the issue at a meeting called by the Chief Electoral Officer of West Bengal on April 16.
The ECI spokesperson in Delhi said that the April 16 meeting was only to ask all political parties to strictly adhere to the COVID-19 protocol issued by the Commission. The ECI also clarified that there was “no plan of clubbing the remaining phases”.
According to the Union Health Ministry’s numbers, West Bengal reported 32,621 active COVID-19 cases as on April 15 morning. The situation in the State is grim. Congress candidate from Samserganj in Murshidabad, Rejaul Haque, died at a Kolkata hospital on April 15 morning. He had tested positive for COVID-19.
When the poll schedule was announced in February Ms. Banerjee had questioned the ECI’s neutrality saying that the States of a similar size, such as Bihar and Assam, only had three-phase polls.
“We did NOT want an 8 Phase election in the first place,” Trinamool Rajya Sabha floor leader Derek O’ Brien tweeted earlier. He added, without naming anyone, “The TWO will say, let people die. But don’t do anything to thwart our blind ambition of ‘winning Bengal’.”
The party is, however, not making any commitment on scaling down its campaign and not holding large public meetings in view of the rising number of cases, which the Left Front announced on April 14. On April 16, Ms. Banerjee will address four public meetings, and Lok Sabha MP Abhishek Banerjee has one road show and one public meeting on his schedule.
“It is up to the Election Commission to decide the schedule for polls in West Bengal. But in the given situation, how are Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah holding massive public meetings in the State? We have, on the other hand, already announced yesterday that the Left Front will not hold any public meetings. It is up to the other parties to follow the course,” Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury told The Hindu.