Updated: April 22, 2021 8:52:19 am
The Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday shot down requests made by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Congress party for last-minute changes to the West Bengal election schedule given the steep rise in Covid-19 cases.
In a separate letter, the Commission warned all political parties of action under the Disaster Management Act and revoking permission for election rallies if they fail to abide by the Covid-19 protocols for campaigning.
This week the TMC had urged the EC to merge the remaining three phases of voting into one, and the Congress had approached the poll body to suggest that voting be postponed till after the Ramzan. The latter, Congress said, will give enough time for the fresh wave of Covid cases to wane.
In its replies to both parties on Wednesday, the EC turned down the suggestions, citing legal and resource constraints.
In response to the TMC’s request to club the remaining phases of voting, the EC said changing the schedule of elections planned “much in advance” and involving a “complex interplay of variety of factors” is not feasible.
To the Congress’s proposal to defer polls till after Ramazan, the EC wrote, “Since the term of West Bengal assembly is ending on 30.5.2021, the Commission is mandated under the Constitution to complete the electoral process before this date… Any postponement of scheduled elections would affect the adherence to Constitutional and statutory provisions related to timely conduct of elections.”
To the TMC’s argument that parties and candidates have had adequate time for campaigning and, hence, clubbing the remaining phases will not hurt anyone’s chances, the EC said that it would be legally incorrect to treat campaigning meant for one phase as electioneering for others.
“Every phase of election is distinct and different, which is why a separate notification is issued for each phase. Each phase also has its dedicated time for campaigning. It’s legally difficult to club the remaining phases since they have been notified already,” a senior EC officer told The Indian Express.
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