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Mamata Banerjee demands polls in one go, Election Commission says legally difficult

Elections have been held for 135 constituencies so far, and the remaining 159 seats are set to go to the polls between April 17 and 29.

By: Express News Service | Kolkata |
Updated: April 16, 2021 6:00:10 am
Accompanied by yesteryear Bollywood icon and Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee held a 4-km roadshow in Kolkata on Thursday. (Express photo by Shashi )

Concerned about a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases in the state, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday urged the Election Commission (EC) to consider clubbing the remaining four phases and conduct the elections at one go. The poll body, however, dismissed the demand, saying it was “legally difficult”.

Elections have been held for 135 constituencies so far, and the remaining 159 seats are set to go to the polls between April 17 and 29.

“Amid an ongoing pandemic, we firmly opposed @ECISVEEP’s decision to conduct WB polls in 8 phases. Now, in view of the huge surge in #COVID19 cases, I urge the ECI to consider holding the remaining phases in ONE go. This will protect the people from further exposure to #COVID19,” Banerjee tweeted ahead of the fifth phase that will be held on Saturday.

Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra echoed her party chairperson’s comments. “It is certainly criminal negligence bordering on manslaughter on part of @ECISVEEP to mandate 8 phase election in WB in middle of worst pandemic. Unbelievable that we are being put through this. Infections, deaths rising everyday,” she tweeted.

An EC spokesperson said the Commission was not considering “clubbing” the remaining phases, saying it was a legally difficult move as notifications for the poll phases had already been issued.

The Commission pointed out that it had directed the state’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) to convene an all-party meeting on Friday to reiterate its instructions on observing Covid-19 precautions during campaigning.

Earlier in the day, at a roadshow attended by Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan, Mamata Banerjee targeted the BJP, saying, “Do you know they have got a whole lot of people into the state. In the name of the election campaign, they have got so many outsiders and they have spread the disease here and run away and now they say, ‘Give us votes’.”

The TMC chief had made similar comments at a public meeting in Cooch Behar district on Wednesday.

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