KOLKATA: Major political parties in West Bengal, barring the ruling Trinamool Congress on Tuesday said that the Election Commission has not taken into account the festive season in the state when fixing October 30 as the date for the by-poll in four assembly seats.
The festival season in West Bengal will begin with Durga Puja on October 11 and continue till Kali Puja, which will be held on November 4.
“The by-poll should have been held after the festive season gets over. We guess the EC didn’t have these inputs concerning Bengal. Anyway we are ready for the polls,” BJP spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya said.
CPI-M central committee member Sujan Chakraborty said the EC has “not applied its mind” while announcing the date for the by-poll.
“The EC could have declared by-poll in all the five seats on September 30 and not only in Bhabanipur. On September 4 the poll panel declared by-poll in only Bhabanipur and not in four other seats to help one particular political entity,” he told PTI.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is among the contestants in Bhabanipur.
Banerjee, who powered her party TMC to a sweeping win but had lost to her protege-turned-bitter foe Suvendu Adhikari in Nandigram in the April-May state election, is required to be elected within six months as per constitutional provisions.
The BJP had blamed Banerjee for forcing the by-poll in Bhabanipur as one of her cabinet ministers and senior party member vacated the seat to facilitate her entry to the Assembly.
“Now the EC has declared by-poll in four other assembly segments on October 30 in the middle of a festive season when people are in the mood for celebration, when many people travel for holidays. The EC has not applied its mind while deciding the dates for West Bengal,” Chakraborty added.
Congress Rajya Sabha member Pradip Bhattacharya echoed him and said the EC shouldn’t have fixed the by-poll date in the middle of a festive season.
“We request the EC to change it to a later date. October is the month of festivals in West Bengal which begins with Durga Puja,” he added.
West Bengal minister Firhad Hakim supporting the EC announcement, said as no assembly seat can be unrepresented for more than six months the by-poll had to be notified in two phases on September 30 and on October 30.
“Durga Puja will be over on October 16 and the by-election will be held on October 30, not on the days of Lakshmi Puja or Kali Puja. The campaigning will take place in the seats where by-election will be held only for some days. There was no alternative in the present situation,” he added.
The four constituencies where the by-poll will be held are Dinhata, Shantipur, Gosaba and Khardah.
The four seats are among the 30 assembly constituencies spread across various states that will hold by-poll on October 30 as per the announcement by Election Commission on Tuesday.
The BJP spokesman blamed the police for not framing proper charges against those arrested in connection with the alleged manhandling of BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh at Bhabanipur on Monday which helped them secure bail a day later.
“We hope the EC will ensure free and fair polls in Bhabanipur on September 30,” he added.
Bhattacharya also claimed the Calcutta High Court had on Tuesday made strong observations against the state chief secretary for his communication to the EC on the necessity to hold by-poll in Bhabanipur.
“An IAS is working at the behest of the ruling party. This is sad.”
Reacting to BJP’s comments, TMC leader and minister Chandrima Bhattacharya said “They (BJP) are sure that they will be defeated and are hence instigating trouble in Bhabanipur. The TMC has nothing to say on the decision of the judiciary. We respect the judiciary.”
She exuded confidence that BJP will see crushing defeat in the September 30 by-poll in Bhabanipur and in the October 30 by-poll in the four other seats as well.
“BJP will be trounced in all the seats and our tally in the Assembly will swell further in the next one month.”
The counting of votes will take place on November 2.