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West Bengal elections 2021: Election Commission rejects calls to rejig poll schedule | India News

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NEW DELHI: The Election Commission on Wednesday ruled out any change in schedule for the remaining phases of polling in West Bengal, rejecting the demand of Trinamool Congress to club the last three phases and also that of the Congress to schedule these phases after the fasting month of Ramzan.
Shooting down the Trinamool Congress’s suggestion to club Phase 6, 7 and 8 of polling, the Commission said scheduling of polls was an activity planned much in advance taking into account the complex interplay of variety of factors ranging from optimal utilisation of resources, manpower and training thereof, logistic involved in the mammoth exercise, voters’ convenience, festivals etc and assessment of prevailing law and order situations.
It added that separate notifications already issued for each of the phases required polls to be held on different days, counting the minimum 14 days – as mandated under Section 30(d) of the Representation of the People Act 1951 — from the last date of withdrawal of candidature for each phase.
“Suggestion to club Phase 6, 7 and 8 is not feasible,” the EC wrote to Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien on Wednesday in response to his April 20 letter submitted to the West Bengal chief electoral officer on Tuesday, requesting holding of polls for the last three phases on a single date in view of the current state of Covid pandemic.
“Each phase of election is distinct and notified separately u/s Section 30 of RP Act, 1951. In view of this, your submission that 52 days of campaign period has already been availed is misleading and not in accordance with the law,” it said.
Also terming as “unacceptable” the Congress’s suggestion to conduct the remaining phases of polling after Ramzan and dilution of the present pandemic, EC on Wednesday wrote to West Bengal PCC chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, stating that Commission was mandated under the Constitution of India to complete the electoral process before May 30, when the term of the West Bengal assembly would expire. “Any postponement of scheduled elections would affect adherence to Constitutional and statutory provisions related to timely conduct of elections,” it reasoned.
On concerns regarding the Covid surge, the EC on Wednesday reminded both TMC and Congress that it had already invoked its powers under Article 324 to prohibit campaigning between 7 pm and 10 am to discourage public gathering and also extended the silence period to 72 hours for the remaining phases. In view of this, campaigning in West Bengal will end at 6.30 pm on April 26.
It added that EC had issued Covid guidelines to ensure that safety norms are adhered to during campaigning without any exceptions, and directed the West Bengal chief secretary, chief electoral officer and district election officers to strictly enforce the same.
“You would have also witnessed that all safety measures have been put in place in the polling stations adhering to the extant guidelines…which has helped in creating a conducive and safe environment for electoral participation,” EC said adding that the measures shall continue to be followed in the remaining phases. The Commission has also made elaborate arrangements for counting on May 2, it added.