Mamata Banerjee slams Election Commission for eight phase election in West Bengal and asks if the schedule was made on orders of Modi and Shah

Published : February 26, 2021 22:47 IST

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee speaking to the media on February 26. Photo: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed her anger over the Election Commission’s announcement that the Assembly election in the State will be held in eight phases, and insinuated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah had a hand in the planning of the elections. “Elections will be held in three phases in Assam. In Tamil Nadu, which has 234 seats, the elections will be held on a single day. In Kerala, where there is a CPI(M) government it will be held in one day. Why will it be held in eight phases in Bengal, which has 294 seats? For whose benefit is this? The Election Commission should remain a little rational,” said Mamata.

Strongly reacting against the EC’s announcement of the election dates for West Bengal on February 26, Mamata said she had the highest regard for the Election Commission, “but if they do not give justice to the State and its people, then where will the people go?” The Chief Minister was also enraged that polling in a large number of districts will be taking place in separate phases. “The elections will be held in three phases in South 24 Parganas just because we are strong in that district. Just imagine! Have these been done on the instructions of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah to facilitate their visits to different constituencies? They will finish off the elections in Assam and Tamil Nadu, and then play their game here for 23 days. In this game, we will defeat you completely,” she said.

Throwing a challenge to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), she said the Trinamool will win, because it is a grassroots party. “Bengal’s own daughter Mamata Banerjee is telling you that I know Bengal from border to border, from district to district, from Assembly constituency to Assembly constituency. We will foil all your conspiracies,” said Mamata. She claimed that what happened was an insult to the people of Bengal and that they will give their reply in the election. “The goondas from outside will not rule Bengal. The people of Bengal will rule Bengal,” she said.

Mamata also raised objection to one of the observers chosen for the Bengal election, claiming that he was also the observer in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. “The same man who was observer in 2019 has been made the observer this time. We know all the drama he did here. We know all the games. BJP has the agency power; it has the power of the government of India… If you [EC] allow the Central government to misuse its powers for one State election, then it will be a big blunder and you will have to face the music,” said Mamata. The 2019 Lok Sabha election was a rude awakening for Mamata, as the BJP won 18 of the 42 seats and emerged as a strong challenger for the Bengal throne.

Never before have elections been conducted in West Bengal in eight phases. The highest number of phases until the present announcement was seven in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The first phase will be on March 27, in which 38 constituencies will go to polls; the second on April 1 (30 seats); the third on April 6 (31 seats); the fourth on April 10 (44 seats); the fifth on April 17 (45 seats); the sixth on April 22 (43 seats); the seventh on April 26 (36 seats); the eighth on April 29 (35 seats).

While the ruling Trinamool Congress is visibly upset by the election schedule, the Opposition parties have welcomed the EC’s decision. According to the BJP, the long-drawn elections is a reflection of the violence that accompanies elections in Bengal. BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said, “Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee seems to be mistaking Election Commission of India with the State Election Commission which has been working at the whims and fancies of the State government and we have seen the results in local polls.” Kailash Vijayvargiya, BJP’s national general secretary and observer for West Bengal, said, “I request that those who indulge in crime and smuggling, particularly in the border areas, be rounded up. If they remain outside, then it will not be possible to conduct elections peacefully.”

The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front and the Congress, who have tied up for the election, have also welcomed the election being spread out over eight phases. CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Mohammed Salim said, “We have seen how people’s votes are looted with the help of the police and the State administration in the last panchayat and municipal elections…. We demand that the Election Commission take measures to ensure the safety of the people.”

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