Opposition leaders question rationale behind ECI’s decision of eight-phase election in West Bengal

‘I believe it has been done deliberately and in a way, the ECI has tried to help the BJP,’ Congress leader Tariq Anwar said

Election Commission of India (PTI)
Election Commission of India (PTI)

NH Web Desk

Several opposition parties, including the TMC, on Friday questioned the need for an eight-phase election in West Bengal.

Voting for the West Bengal Assembly polls will begin on March 27 and continue till April 29, while counting of votes will be taken up on May 2, the Election Commission (EC) announced on Friday.

Polling in West Bengal will be held on March 27, April 1, April 6, April 10, April 17, April 22, April 26 and April 29, while Assam will have three-phase polls on March 27, April 1 and April 6. Polling for the Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry Assembly elections will take place in a single phase on April 6.

Announcing the poll schedule, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said West Bengal will have one more phase of polling compared to seven in 2016.

Expressing her displeasure, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee said, "With all due respect to the EC, I want to say that questions are being raised on why the election will be held in so many phases in Bengal, while other states will be voting in one phase. If the EC does not provide justice to people, where will they go?"

She, however, asserted that despite "all these tricks", her party will win the polls.

"I have information from my sources that the poll dates are similar to the ones that the BJP wanted. Have the dates been announced according to the suggestions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah?" Banerjee asked at a press conference in Kolkata.

CPI(ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said he was unable to fathom the "numbers game". "Five-day test match in Chennai becomes a two-day affair in Ahmedabad. One-day election in Tamil Nadu gets stretched over eight phases in West Bengal. Can any of you explain this numbers game?" he asked in a tweet.

Congress leader and former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan wondered if there were any "nefarious plans". "If voting for Kerala-140, Tamil Nadu-234 and Puducherry-30 (total 404 seats) can be conducted in a single phase, why Assam-126 and West Bengal-294 (total 420 seats) require 7 & 8 phases? Are there any nefarious plans?" he asked on Twitter.

Congress's national spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill too lashed out at the EC as well as the Centre. "On one hand BJP Govt parrots idea of 'One Nation One Election' and on the other hand EC announces 8 phase election for Bengal which shows vast difference between fictional world of sloganeering & reality of implementation," he said in a tweet.

Another Congress leader, Tariq Anwar, said, "I believe it has been done deliberately and in a way, the EC has tried to help the BJP."

"They (BJP) feel that it will help them, but it will not as far as I know about the people of Bengal. They are revolutionary in nature...they may deviate for some time but ultimately, Bengal is Bengal," he said.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury urged the poll panel to explain the reason to stretch the Bengal polls beyond a month when in other states, the process can be wrapped up in a single day.

"These elections are going to be crucial. The overall objective today is to keep the BJP, which is making all unscrupulous attempts in order to capture power in these states, at bay. In Bengal, the basic alternative that is emerging on the strength of people's struggles in the past few months, braving the repression of the TMC government, is the secular democratic alliance of Left-Congress," he said in a video message.

CPI general secretary D Raja said the EC should have provided "convincing reasons" for announcing eight-phase elections in Bengal.

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