The State Election Commission (SEC) succumbed to pressure from the ruling party on Monday and announced that counting of votes for the three civic bodies that went to the polls on Saturday will be done on October 9, two days later than originally scheduled.
However, in a minor concession to the opposition parties, who remained defiant till Monday night and demanded total repoll in all the three corporations — Bidhannagar, Bally and Asansol — the SEC declared that there would be repolling in some booths in all the three civic bodies on October 8. “The total number of the booths will be announced on Tuesday,” state election commissioner SR Upadhaya said.
Significantly, the announcement came late on Monday — barely two hours after Upadhaya told reporters that he could not declare whether there would be any repolling or when the counting of votes could be taken up because “going through all the footage, both of webcams and the media, is a tedious and time-consuming process”. Upadhayay also refused to say by what time he would decide on the twin issues. What prompted him to change his mind and make the announcement on repolling and counting subsequently remains a matter of speculation.
All through Monday, the SEC’s office remained at the centre of a tug-of-war. While the opposition parties, including the CPI(M), BJP and the Congress, kept demanding fresh polls in all the three civic bodies, the Trinamool kept increasing the pressure on Upadhaya to order counting of votes on the scheduled date. A team of senior Trinamool leaders, including education minister Partha Chatterjee, panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee, Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee and party MP Subrata Bakshi, even called on Upadhaya, even as Trinamool supporters continued their demonstration outside the SEC office.
“I have no words to describe what I feel. It is beyond my taste to comment on the commissioner. He has no values and principles,” Samik Bhattacharjee, the lone BJP MLA of the state, said. CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said, “It’s a complete eyewash. Conducting repoll in some booths is no solution. There was large-scale violence and rigging… thousands of citizens were not allowed to cast their votes in so many wards.”