CEC: Need to move forces, political climate led to 8-phase Bengal polls

5 months ago 12

A shopkeeper displays campaigning material of political parties for sale ahead of the West Bengal state legisl...Read More

NEW DELHI: Polling in

West Bengal

will be spread over an unprecedented eight phases this time, making it the most staggered state poll ever. However, the polls will be 11 days shorter than the timeframe of the assembly polls in 2016, calculating from announcement to counting day.
Chief election commissioner

Sunil Arora

said the decision to stagger polling in West Bengal over eight phases — unlike six phases during the 2016 assembly polls (which effectively was seven phases as the one of the phases was split over two different dates) and seven phases in 2019

Lok Sabha polls

— was based on factors like availability and need for movement of central forces as well as “current kind of charges and counter-charges”, an apparent reference to allegations of political violence levelled by

BJP

against ruling TMC and counter-charges by the latter.
As per crime data for 2019 compiled by the

National Crime Records Bureau

, West Bengal accounted for the highest (12) of the total 61 murders due to “political reasons” in 2019, though this figure is a repetition of its 2018 count since West Bengal did not submit its 2019 crime data to NCRB in time. In the 2019

Lok Sabha

polls, the EC had to curtail the campaign period in West Bengal due to increased incidents of violence.
Referring to allegations and counter-allegations, Arora said “we have to find a kind of mean… way out”, adding that an increase from seven to eight phases was no big deal. To a question on how

Tamil Nadu

, where excess use of money power had earlier led to rescinding of polls in some constituencies, had single phase poll, the CEC reminded that the state had a single-phase poll in 2016 and 2019 Lok Sabha too.
An EC official, while speaking to TOI, pointed out that even in BJP-governed Assam, the number of phases was raised to three this time from two in 2016.
Sources said 1,000-1,200 companies of central armed police forces — comprising 1 lakh to 1.2 lakh personnel — will be deployed for the ensuing polls, with the largest chunk headed to West Bengal. Sources said polling stations in West Bengal have gone up from 77,413 to 1 lakh due to Covid concerns, requiring more phases as the limited forces need to be moved between the constituencies.

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