Bengal Poll Observers Write to EC on Merging of Last Two Phases, Seek More Forces: Report

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Amid demands by several political parties in Bengal to club the last two phases of voting-scheduled for April 26 and 29- poll observers stationed by the Election Commission of India (ECI) have reportedly indicated that the last polling can be merged if extra security forces are provided, a report said.

According to a report in Hindustan Times, poll observers Ajay Nayak and Vivek Dube wrote to the ECI late last week. However, there hasn’t been any response by the poll body on the suggestions yet. The sixth phase of Bengal polls, comprising 43 seats, is slated to be conducted on April 22.

“At the moment, there are 1,000 companies that are stationed in Bengal. The next phase is too close so nothing can be done about that. However, because the ECI is aware of the seriousness of the Covid situation, the observers suggested merging the last two phases but added that 500 additional companies of forces will be needed,” sources were quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times.

The demand to club the remaining phases of elections emerged as coronavirus cases spiked at an alarming rate and several people said huge gatherings of people could aggravate the situation further. Bengal has seen exponential rise in the cases in the past few weeks.

According to the letter, at least 25 people contracted coronavirus infection in the office of the Bengal chief electoral officer, while two candidates succumbed to the infection.

A slugfest has been going on between the TMC and the BJP over the rise of coronavirus cases in the state, with Mamata Banerjee blaming the saffron party for the surge. Last week, Mamata said she will call upon the Election Commission to stop the BJP from bringing “outsiders” during campaigning, squarely blaming the saffron party for exacerbating the COVID-19 situation in the state. Banerjee, during a public meeting here in Nadia district, said the BJP brought people from “worst-hit” states like Gujarat for erecting marquees for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s poll rallies.

Meanwhile, BJP national president JP Nadda on Tuesday held a review meeting with senior party leaders to discuss the campaigning strategy for the last three phases of West Bengal assembly elections amid a surge in number of Covid-19 cases in the poll-bound state.

Top sources in the BJP told CNN-News18 that the a part of the campaigning is most likely to be done through digital mediums. In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rallies which are scheduled to be held on April 23 in Bengal, more than 500 people are not allowed. However, arrangements will be made to make Prime Minister’s speech available for others too in all districts through digital mode.

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