The Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday shot down requests made by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Congress party for last-minute changes to West Bengal’s election schedule given the steep rise in Covid-19 cases.
In a separate letter, the Commission warned all political parties to act under the Disaster Management Act and revoke consent for election rallies if they fail to adhere to Covid-19 protocols for campaigning.
This week the TMC had urged the EC to merge the other three stages of voting into one, and Congress had approached the voting body to suggest that voting be postponed until after the Ramzan. The latter, Congress said, will give the fresh wave of Covid cases enough time to wander.
In its mutual responses on Wednesday, the EC rejected the suggestions, citing legal and resource constraints.
In response to the TMC’s request to club the remaining voting steps, the EC said that it is not practical to change the timetable of elections that are planned “well in advance” and include “a complex interplay of a variety of factors”.
To the Congress motion to postpone polls until after Ramazan, the EC wrote, “As the West Bengal assembly term ends on 30.5.2021, the Commission has a mandate under the Constitution to complete the electoral process before the date this… Any scheduled deferral of elections would affect adherence to Constitutional and statutory provisions relating to the timely conduct of elections. ”
To the TMC’s argument that parties and candidates have had enough time to campaign and, therefore, clubbing the remaining periods will not hurt anyone’s chances, the EC said it would be legally wrong to treat campaigning meant for one step as electioneering to others.
“Each stage of the election is different and different, which is why a separate notice is given for each stage. Each stage also has its own dedicated campaign time. It is legally difficult to capture the remaining periods since they have already been notified, ”said a senior EC official The Indian Express.