The Trinamool Congress Sunday said that the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal will cause a lot of inconvenience to the people of the state, even as the BJP welcomed the Election Commission’s decision saying that it reflects the “deteriorating” law and order situation under TMC rule.
Lok Sabha elections in the state will begin on April 11 and polling would be held over seven phases, followed by counting of votes for all seats on May 23, the Election Commission announced on Sunday.
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Senior TMC leader and state minister Firhad Hakim said that the BJP had submitted a false data on the law and order situation in the state to the Election Commission (EC) which forced the poll panel to declare a seven-phase poll for the state.
“This prolonged polling process will cause a lot of inconvenience to the people, especially those from the minority communities as the elections will be held in the month of Ramzan,” said Hakim.
A new test for political parties
The seven-phase polls in West Bengal will be a test for all the political parties as they have never experienced a prolonged election schedule before. In 2014, Lok Sabha polls were held in five phases in the state. The Assembly polls in 2016 too was held in five phases. A prolonged election schedule means that all the parties will have to rethink their strategies and prepare for rigorous campainging across the state for more number of days. This will also pose a challenge to their organisational abilities to sustain the prolonged schedule.
The state Congress too urged the EC to reconsider its decision to hold polls in the month of Ramzan. “People belonging to the minority community will suffer a lot during elections as three of the seven phases are falling in the month of Ramzan. The EC should reconsider its decision,” State Congress president Somen Mitra Somen Mitra said.
Targeting the BJP, he said, “The BJP is very happy that the election will be held with the help of the central forces. But the same was used in 2014 Lok Sabha polls too and we had won 34 seats. The central government has intentionally misled the EC with wrong inputs about the law and order situation in the state.”
The TMC leader further said that the time, however, will help their party supremo to campaign outside Bengal against the BJP. “We know how to fight. We will defeat the BJP as people are with Mamata Banerjee,” he added.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has convened a core committee meeting of her party on Tuesday where she is likely to finalise her party candidates.
Welcoming the EC’s decision, BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said, “This is the first time that Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal will be held in seven phases. This is a clear indication that a state of lawlessness prevails in the state and polls are not being held peacefully. The election will be held with the help of the central armed forces.” He also alleged that the TMC is indulging in communal politics by saying that the long election season will cause inconvenience to the people from the minority community.
“Why is TMC worried over a seven-phase election? By raising the issue of the minorities, the TMC is indulging in communal politics. They are talking about Ramzan month to get Muslim votes. They want to polarise the voters. Last year, the panchayat polls were also held during the Ramzan month. I will appeal to the people not to support this kind of politics,” Sinha added.
The BJP, too, has convened a meeting on Monday to finalise its candidates for West Bengal.
Left Front chairman Biman Bose urged the EC to ensure adequate security during the election. “The question is not about the phases, but whether it could be held peacefully. We want the EC to ensure free, fair and peaceful polls,” Bose said. The CPM leader added that they will announce their list of candidates on Wednesday. The party has already announced its candidates for Raiganj and Murshidabad constituencies.
Meanhile, Chief Electoral Officer of West Bengal Ariz Aftab said that the EC will take adequate measures to ensure free, fair and peaceful polls. “The elections will be held in seven phases in West Bengal. We will provide all facilities. We have adequate number of EVMs and VVPATs. We will also reserve additional EVMs in case of malfunctions. We have flying squad, static surveillance team and complaint redressal system. We will deploy adequate number of security forces to hold a peaceful election,” said Aftab.