The pending by-elections in seven Assembly constituencies of West Bengal could be held before Durga Puja in October and the state administration is fully prepared to conduct it, officials of the state Chief Electoral Officer’s (CEO) office informed the poll body during a virtual meeting on Wednesday, sources said.
The seven seats are lying vacant either due to the deaths of candidates during the eight-phase Assembly election held earlier this year or the resignation of MLAs.
The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) is keen on the by-polls as party chief and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who lost the election from Nandigram, must be elected within November to be able to retain her post as the chief minister. For this, by-polls must be conducted by November 5.
“The festive season will continue from October 10 to October 24 and it is impossible to conduct the election at that time. So, the state has asked the Election Commission (EC) to conduct polls before the festive season begins.
“We have more than one month. If the Commission makes the notification (for holding the election in the seven seats) now, it is possible to conduct the polls before Durga Puja,” a senior state government official said.
Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra on Wednesday held a virtual meeting with Bengal Chief Secretary HK Diwedi. Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain, who is in charge of the West Bengal Assembly polls, and senior officials of the CEO’s office attended the meeting.
The meeting was held to understand the situation and the preparedness of the state to hold the by-election to the seven Assembly constituencies.
The EC officials enquired about the Covid-19 and the flood situation in West Bengal, the official said.
“The EC has been given the dates of Durga puja and the other festivities in October. They have been told that holding elections before the festivities will be the best idea,” the source said.
The first-level checking of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) for holding the by-election to the state Legislative Assembly is complete.
Meanwhile, TMC state secretary Kunal Ghosh said, “The by-elections should be held immediately. The BJP is not willing to hold the polls. But they should remember that such negative politics won’t yield any result as people have already voted for the TMC in the Assembly election.”
BJP state spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya said the Bengal government has not withdrawn the restrictions imposed due to the prevailing Covid situation but is concerned about holding polls.
The by-polls are due in the constituencies of Bhabanipur, Khardah, Gosaba, Shantipur, Jangipur, Samserganj and Dinhata.
Mamata Banerjee is expected to file her nomination from Bhabanipur in Kolkata, which was vacated by winning TMC candidate Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, days after the results were declared.