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EC issues instructions to prepare for bypolls

“There is no need to check the EVMs and VVPATs in Murshidabad as elections were not held in the two seats of Jangipur and Samsherganj as a candidate in each of the seats passed away before elections were held,” a EC official said.

SNS | Kolkata |

In an indication that bypolls in seven Assembly constituencies in West Bengal will be held sooner rather than later, the Election Commission has issued instructions to the districts concerned to take up initial measures for conducting the byelections.

State Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Aariz Aftab has written to the District Election Officers (DEOs) of those districts where the by-elections are due, to begin the first level of checking of EVMs and VVPATs. The development comes two days after a six-member delegation of the Trinamul Congress met the full bench of the Election Commission in Delhi and sought early bypolls in view of the improved Covid situation in the state.

The delegation had informed the EC that even an election with a short notice of seven days will be enough for their party. The CEO in his letter has mentioned that standard protocol of Covid on sanitisation, social distancing and wearing of masks should be strictly maintained during the checking process.

The CEO has forwarded his letter to the DEOs of Cooch Behar, Kolkata South, South 24-Parganas, North 24Parganas and Nadia. An EC official said that while the dates have not been decided as yet, the instructions issued are an indication that the commission is indeed planning to conduct the bypolls.

The seats where polls are due are Jangipur and Samsherganj in Murshidabad, Khardah in North 24-Parganas, Bhowanipore in Kolkata South Dinhata in Cooch Behar, Santipur in Nadia and Gosaba in South 24-Parganas. In Bhowanipore, state Agriculture minister, Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, resigned to pave way for chief minister Mamata Banerjee to contest the by-election.

Miss Banerjee has lost the elections from Nandigram seat and has to enter the Assembly within six months to continue as chief minister. Mr Chattopadhyay is all set to contest the bypolls from Khardah.

“There is no need to check the EVMs and VVPATs in Murshidabad as elections were not held in the two seats of Jangipur and Samsherganj as a candidate in each of the seats passed away before elections were held,” a EC official said.

In Khardah TMC candidate Kajal Sinha died of Covid before the announcement of election results while in Gosaba the winning TMC candidate Jayanta Naskar succumbed to post Covid complications on June 20. The Santipur and Dinhata seats fell vacant as two BJP MPs, Jagannath Sarkar and Nisith Pramanik, resigned after winning the assembly elections as they wanted to continue as members of the Lok Sabha.

“We are happy with the development. There should be an elected representative from all assembly seats, “ senior TMC leader Firhad Hakim said. According to the schedule announced by the poll panel, the FLC will start on August 3 and will have to be completed by August 6. As per the EC schedule, there are 3,414 EVMs and equal number of VVPATs in total and altogether 62 engineers will have to be deployed for the checking.

When asked, a senior EC official said, “We cannot tell anything about the dates because that will be decided by the Commission, but it is certain that the poll panel is preparing for the bypolls and the FLC is the first step towards that. There are many other factors that need to be considered before the announcement of the final dates.”

Currently, Banerjee and Finance Minister Amit Mitra are the two non-legislators in the ministry. While Mitra has expressed his desire to step down due to ill health, Miss Banerjee needs to win a by-polls to enter the state Assembly.