Mamata welcomes Madras High Court’s criticism of Election Commission for COVID spread even as Bengal’s ‘quiet’ seventh phase election leads to demand for withdrawal of Central forces

Published : April 26, 2021 21:32 IST

At a polling station in Asansol district during the seventh phase of the Assembly election in West Bengal on April 26. Photo: PTI

In the midst of a raging pandemic, the seventh phase of the Assembly election in West Bengal took place in 34 constituencies in the districts of Paschim Bardhaman, South Dinajpur, Maldah, Murshidabad and Kolkata South. Elections to two seats – Jangipur and Shamsherganj in Murshidabad district – will be held on May 16 due to the death of candidates. According to Chief Electoral Officer Aariz Aftab, the election was peaceful with “no major incidents reported anywhere”. According to Election Commission officials, the seventh phase has been the most “quiet” in the eight-phase election in the State.

The voting percentage stood at 75.06 per cent at 5 p.m. Murshidabad saw the highest voter turnout at 80.37 per cent, followed by South Dinajpur (80.25), Maldah (78.76), Paschim Bardhaman (70.24), and Kolkata South (60.03). The same day the State recorded 15,992 new COVID-19 cases. The total active cases as on April 26 stood at 1,01,098. Sixty-eight people died on the day and the total number of deaths stood at 11,077. The same day the Madras High Court slammed the EC over its failure to enforce the COVID protocol during the election. A Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice S. Ramamoorthy said that the EC was the only institution “responsible for the situation today”. The Court also threatened to stop the counting of votes on May 2 if the EC could not present a plan to enforce COVID rules.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee welcomed the observation of the Madras High Court. “I welcome the Madras High Court order, which clearly said the EC cannot escape its responsibility. Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and EC are responsible for the situation. Mamata also demanded that the Central forces be withdrawn in the eighth and final phase of the election on April 29, as the security personnel may be infected. “I am requesting please withdraw the 2 lakh odd Central forces from COVID-hit States, who are camping in schools and colleges and safe homes and thus hampering COVID management operations. 75 per cent of them may be infected by the virus. Please withdraw them in the last phase," Mamata said.