Firhad Hakim, the Mayor of Kolkata and a Minister in Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s government, on Monday questioned the rationale behind holding Lok Sabha elections in seven phases in West Bengal.
Expressing his displeasure over the EC’s decision, Hakim, a Minister for Urban Development and Municipal Affairs, said that the seven-phase election will be make it difficult for Muslims to vote as they will be observing Ramzan at the time.
“Election Commission is a constitutional body and we respect them. We don’t want to say anything against them. But seven-phase election will be tough for people in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal,” Hakim said.
He said that the ECI should have kept the religious obligation of the Muslim population in the three states in mind before deciding to hold elections in seven phases.
“Minority population in these three states is quite high. They’ll cast votes by observing ‘roza’. EC should’ve kept this in mind,” he said.
The Trinamool Congress leader then pointed fingers at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“BJP wants minorities to not cast their votes. But we aren’t worried. People are committed to ‘BJP hatao-desh bachao’,” he said referring to the oft-repeated slogan of the opposition parties.
Bengal has never witnessed a seven-phase election. The longest election was the 2016 assembly polls spread over six phases.
The holy month of Ramzan, during which Muslims hold rigorous fasting, is expected to begin on 5 May.
The ECI on Sunday evening announced that the elections to the 17th Lok Sabha will be held in seven phases from 11 April to 19 May. Counting will be held on 23 May.
At a press conference in New Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said while elections in the majority of the states across the country would be held in a single phase, three states would witness elections in seven phases.
Polling in most of West Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha constituencies will be held during the Ramzan month. In the Phase 5, which will be held on 6 May, elections will be held in 7 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal. Eight seats will go to polls in Phase 6 on 12 May, while the highest, 9, will see polling in the last phase, 19 May.
The general elections are being held for 543 seats. The CEC said that the number of voters had risen to 90 crore from 81 crore in 2014.