May see more booths, strong vigilance, given the pandemic and violence in the state.
New Delhi: The West Bengal Assembly election is likely to be held in seven phases between the first week of April to mid-May, according to sources in the Election Commission.
The Election Commission sources have also said that the phases of election in West Bengal are likely to be not less than seven given the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic situation and reports of widespread poll violence in the state.
“The election to the West Bengal Assembly and other three states are going to be undertaken under an unprecedented situation given that the Covid-19 pandemic is not over yet and with regards to this, the Commission is going to take adequate measures which includes increasing the phases of election. In all probability, Bengal is likely to see at least seven-phase elections this time. The dates are likely to be around April and May this time,” a source in the Election Commission told The Sunday Guardian.
The dates for the election to the 294 Assembly seats in West Bengal is likely to be announced by the first week of March, so that the process for election begins by the end of March this year and the process of election is likely to be over by 20 May this year. The results for the election are likely to be declared by the second week of May.
In the 2016 West Bengal Assembly elections, the elections were held in six phases and between April 4 to May 5. The results for the Assembly elections were declared on May 17.
Sources in the Election Commission have also said that the number of election booths in the state are also likely to be increased from the present number of booths.
Bengal currently has around 78,000 election booths in the state which is likely to be increased to one lakh booths in the upcoming Assembly elections.
This, according to the Commission, is being done to ensure that Covid-19 protocols are followed and that crowding is avoided and social distancing is maintained.
Presently, each booth has about 1,500 voters which is likely to be reduced to 1,000 voters per booth.
However, given the politically volatile nature of politics in Bengal which is marred by violence, the real challenge of the Election Commission would be to conduct a free and fair election in the state.
On this, sources in the Commission have said that they are aware of the nature of political violence in the state and that adequate measures will be taken by the Commission to ensure free and fair elections in West Bengal.
Sources have also said that the Commission is likely to declare all the election booths in the state as “sensitive” booths and all these booths would be managed by paramilitary forces and a negligible role of the state police would be seen in the upcoming elections in West Bengal.
Opposition political parties from West Bengal, including the BJP, the Left and the Congress, have given multiple deputations and letters to the Election Commission highlighting the biased role of the state police and the state machinery that would be involved in the conduct of the election.
In last of December, last year, Deputy Election Commissioner Sudip Jain had visited the state to take stock of election preparedness in the state and a delegation from the opposition parties had even at that time handed over a letter apprising him of the political violence, and biased attitude of the police and the state machinery in Bengal.
The Sunday Guardian has learnt that the Commission is taking into account multiple video footages, photographs, and letters it has received from the state which has shown political violence and the behaviour of the state police with regards to the violence and has ensured that they are going to plug those loopholes while conducting elections this time.
Meanwhile, the Commission has also written to the Ministry of Home Affairs about the need for paramilitary forces in conducting state elections and to make them available during that time.
Sources in the Commission have also said that paramilitary forces would also be used to ensure confidence building among the voters and area domination at places where it is considered to be disturbed or politically volatile.