Millennium Post (Kolkata)
TMC proposes to hold last 3 phases of polling in one go, EC denies
EC may frame stringent guidelines for holding poll campaigns
KOLKATA: Amid surge in Covid cases—with 6,769 fresh cases being reported in Bengal on Thursday—Trinamool Congress (TMC) proposed clubbing of the sixth, seventh and eighth phases of polls to the state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO). However, as reported by news agency ANI, ECI denied any plans to club the remaining phases of polls in the state. Sources said instead of consolidating the poll phases, EC may frame stringent guidelines for holding poll campaigns.
On Friday, the state CEO Aariz Aftab will convene an allparty meet in wake of the rising cases of Covid. “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,” TMC chairperson Mamata Banerjee tweeted on Thursday. TMC had raised questions against the eightphase polls in Bengal from the very beginning. Earlier, Banerjee had said such a long poll duration was announced at the behest of the BJP and was an insult to the people of Bengal.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath—who tested positive for Covid recently— have been coming to Bengal at regular intervals to campaign for BJP party nominees.
Even amid the spike in cases, Modi is scheduled to address about six more rallies before the remaining phases of elections.
Meanwhile, the Commission considering the vulnerability mapping of over 1 lakh polling booths had decided to deploy Central forces in all of them. A senior official in the EC said as per the security arrangements decided by the Commission, the Central force requirement in the final three phases will be 2471 companies. Presently, the Commission has 1071 companies.
“If Central forces are not deployed at the polling booths then chances of booth capturing cannot be ruled out. So, the security factor is a major area of concern against clubbing the three phases. However, we are awaiting the feedback of the political parties,” said a senior EC official.
TMC's proposal assumes significance as Congress candidate Rezaul Haque, who was contesting from Samsherganj Assembly seat in Murshidabad district died of Covid in a private Kolkata hospital on Thursday morning. Murshidabad was bound for polls on April 26 during the seventh phase. The Commission is likely to postpone the polls in Samsherganj.
Moreover, TMC candidate from Goalpokhor in North Dinajpur district Golam Rabbani and RSP candidate from Jangipur Pradip Nandi tested positive. BJP MP Roopa Ganguly also tested positive. Earlier, Trinamool Congress had changed its candidate from Murarai Assembly constituency— Abdur Rahman—as he was suffering from Covid. Dr Mosarraf Hossain was nominated as TMC's candidate replacing Rahman.
Meanwhile, besides the 55 Police Observers, the Commission will have another 11 Police Observers for the 5th phase polls in which 45 Assembly constituencies are going to polls. So far at least 7 candidates from various political parties have been infected with Covid across Bengal. Safe Homes are being set up in Rajarhat, Topsia and also at Kishore Bharati stadium. Each Safe Home would have at least 100-110 beds. Vaccination would be done in all the wards of KMC from Friday. Private hospitals in the city have been asked to increase Covid beds.