West Bengal: EC may advance polls ‘due to exams, violence’


The notification for the West Bengal Assembly polls is likely to be issued in mid-February, and elections could be held earlier than expected owing to Board exams and political violence, The Indian Express has learnt.

Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain, who was on a two-day visit to the state, is said to have raised concerns over law and order, the PTI news agency quoted sources as saying.

It was also learnt that Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, and Election Commissioners Shushil Chandra and Rajiv Kumar will visit the state later this month to take stock of poll preparedness.

“Due to school Board exams scheduled in April and May, polls could be held earlier than expected. The decision could be taken in the view of widespread violence in the state. On the other hand, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, and Election Commissioners Shushil Chandra and Rajiv Kumar could visit the state next week to monitor the poll preparation. Nothing has been finalised yet. The decision would be taken based on the report of the deputy election commissioner,” said a source in the office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of West Bengal.

The tenure of the Mamata Banerjee government ends on May 30.

Usually, the Assembly polls in Bengal are held in April and May in multiple phases. Sources said this time, the polls could be held either in six or seven phases.

Jain on Thursday held a meeting with the state chief secretary, home secretary and director general of police at a city hotel and discussed measures to conduct polls in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sources said voters above the age of 80, persons with disability and home quarantined Covid-19 patients would be allowed to exercise their franchise through postal ballots.

The number of booths is likely to be increased to 1 lakh from the existing 78,000 to ensure social distancing.

The deputy election commissioner sought to know from the School Education Department secretary the number of schools that were damaged in the cyclone Amphan last year.

Sources said about 250 schools in Sundarban were damaged in the cyclone. Jain also asked the state health secretary about preparations for the vaccination and spoke with the DGP on law and order.

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