The stage is set for a six-phase Assembly election in Bengal from the first week of April. The Election Commission of India is expected to make a formal announcement about the schedule after the Budget session of Parliament ends on February 29.
Sources in the state’s home department said the Election Commission is likely to declare the dates along with the poll schedule of the four other states headed for Assembly polls this summer — Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Assam. The EC has asked state chief electoral officer Sunil Gupta to attend a meeting at Nirbachan Sadan on February 12 where the poll dates will be finalised.
Top officials of the commission had held their first meeting with the state officials in Kolkata on January 10.
In Bengal, every polling booth will be brought under stringent security coverage of central paramilitary forces, said a senior home department official.
However, the leadership of the ruling Trinamool Congress is against the idea of early elections. “It would be difficult for the chief minister to inaugurate or announce new development projects and schemes if the poll panel announces the dates in the first week of March. Rules make it illegal to announce any new project after the model code of conduct comes into force with the declaration of the poll schedule,” a Cabinet minister said.
Trinamool leaders had earlier called on Election Commission officials in New Delhi to discuss possible dates for the elections. The minister said he had requested the commission to hold the polls from late April. But it seems the commission is sticking to its decision, largely because different board and council examinations, like Madhyamik and Higher Secondary, will be over by the middle of March.
“We are not at all worried if the elections are held early, and in six phases. Trinamool will return and get a thumping majority,” Mukul Roy, party MP, told HT.
The official also said that the commission has sought information about a range of things — from arrangements in schools and other government institutions where polling stations would be set up to the progress of the training programmes that central and state government employees who are to be deployed as poll personnel were supposed to undergo.