The Election of Commission India (ECI) on Friday announced that West Bengal will witness eight-phased Assembly polls beginning March 27.
Addressing a press conference, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said: "West Bengal will see eight-phase elections. 30 Assembly constituencies in five districts will go to polls in the first phase on March 27. 30 Assembly constituencies in four districts will go to polls in the second phase on April 1. In the third phase, 31 constituencies in 3 districts will go to polls on April 6. 44 constituencies in five districts will go for polling on April 10."
"In the fifth phase, 45 constituencies in six districts will witness polling on April 17. 43 constituencies in four districts in the sixth phase will go to polls on April 22. 36 constituencies in five districts in the seventh phase will go for polling on April 26. In the eighth and final phase, 35 constituencies in four districts will witness polling on April 29," he said. The counting of votes will take place on May 2, he added.
Soon after the dates were announced, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asked the EC for the rationale behind this long-winding election process. She said, "If Assam polls could be conducted in three phases and Tamil Nadu in one, then why were Bengal polls being bifurcated into eight phases?" She also alleged that the decision was taken to pander to the BJP.
"Has this been done on the suggestion PM Modi and Amit Shah? Has this been done to facilitate their campaigning? So that they can wrap up Assam and Tamil Nadu before descending on Bengal? This won't help the BJP. We will demolish them,” Mamata Banerjee asserted at a press conference in Kolkata on Friday.
Meanwhile, the EC officials on Saturday said the polling had to be spread out due to festivals, the movement of security forces and an increased number of polling stations keeping in mind the COVID-19 related protocols.
Sunil Arora said the commission assesses the law-and-order situation and it is based on several factors. "After all, the elections to West Bengal in 2016 were in seven phases. The Lok Sabha was in seven phases. So, seven to eight (phases) is not such a big deal because we also have to see the movement of forces, the current charges and counter-charges (by political parties). "We have to kind of find a way out. That is why we are sending two expenditure observers to Tamil Nadu and two police observers to West Bengal," he said.