TMC, others question 8-phase polls in Bengal; BJP welcomes EC decision

Many Opposition parties including the Trinamool Congress Friday questioned the need for a eight-phase election in West Bengal even as BJP leaders welcomed the Election Commission’s decision and said anti-social elements need to be controlled for peaceful polls.

The EC announced that voting for five assembly elections will begin on March 27 and continue till April 29, while counting of votes will be done on May 2.

Elections in West Bengal will be held on March 27, April 1, April 6, April 10, April 17, April 22, April 26 and April 29 while Assam will have three-phase polls on March 27, April 1 and April 6. Polling for Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry assembly elections will take place in a single phase on April 6.

Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora while announcing the poll schedule said that this time West Bengal will have one more phase compared to seven in 2016.

Expressing her displeasure, TMC boss and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, “With all due respect to the Election Commission, I want to say that questions are being raised on why elections will be held in so many phases in Bengal while other states will be voting in one phase. If EC doesn’t provide justice to the people, where will the people go.”

She, however, said despite “all these tricks”, she will win the elections.

“I have information from my sources that the poll dates are similar to the ones BJP wanted. Have the dates been announced as per the suggestions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah?” she asked at a press conference in Kolkata.

BJP national secretary Kailash Vijayvarghia, however, welcomed the eight- phase elections in West Bengal and said that it was imperative to conduct fair polls.

“Along with the announcement of elections, anti-social elements will also have to be controlled for peaceful elections in West Bengal. Also, fair officers should also be appointed in every district of the state so that there is no disturbance in the election,” he said in a tweet.

CPI(ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya seemed unable to fathom the “numbers game”.

“Five-day test match in Chennai becomes a two-day affair in Ahmedabad. One-day election in Tamil Nadu gets stretched over eight phases in West Bengal. Can any of you explain this numbers game?” he asked in a tweet.

Congress leader and former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan wondered if there were any “nefarious plans”.

“If voting for Kerala-140, Tamil Nadu-234 and Puducherry-30 (total 404 seats) can be conducted in a single phase, why Assam-126 and West Bengal-294 (total 420 seats) require 7 & 8 phases? Are there any nefarious plans?” he asked.

BJP MP from Bengal Babul Supriyo welcomed the EC move and said that it was time for change in the state.

“8 phase election in Bengal. I want change, I want BJP in Bengal …,” he said in a tweet.

Senior Assam minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma welcomed the decision. Assam goes to polls in three phases starting March 27.

“Assam Assembly Polls are announced and we seek your blessing to form government again. We’re grateful for your faith & cooperation in last 5 years during which Assam witnessed stupendous growth. We promise to continue the same under the leadership of Hon PM Sri @narendramodi,” Sarma tweeted.

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