Polling is underway for eighth and last phase of assembly elections in West Bengal. The polling, which began at 7 this morning, will conclude at 6:30 PM. Voting is taking place for 35 Assembly seats spread over four districts in this phase. 283 candidates, including 35 women are in the fray. BJP and Trinamool Congress have fielded candidates on all seats. Congress is contesting 19 seats under the banner of Sanyukta Morcha, a coalition between Congress, Left and the Indian Secular Front (ISF). CPI(M) is contesting 10 seats and ISF four.
Election Commission has deployed 641 companies of central forces to ensure free and fair polling. Poll body has decided to use Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) along with Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) at every Polling Station, with a view to enhance the transparency and credibility of the election process, as VVPAT allows the voter to verify his/her vote. The arrangements have already been made to ensure availability of adequate number of EVMs and VVPATs for the smooth conduct of elections.
In view of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, the Election Commission has decided to allow maximum 1,000 electors in a Polling Station instead of the earlier stipulation of 1,500 electors. Option of Postal Ballot facility has been extended to the electors who are COVID- 19 positive or suspect as certified by competent authority and are in home or institutional quarantine along with those marked as Persons with Disabilities (PwD) and above the age of 80 years. It will be ensured that every Polling Station is equipped with Assured Minimum Facilities (AMF) like drinking water, waiting shed, toilet with water facility, adequate arrangements for lighting and ramp of appropriate gradient for the Persons with Disabilities. The special facilities will include mandatory sanitization of Polling Station, thermal checking of voters at entry point either by polling staff or paramedical staff or an Asha worker. If temperature is above the set norms of Health Ministry, then the elector will be provided with token and asked to come for voting at the last hour of poll. At the last hour of poll, such electors will be facilitated for voting, strictly following COVID-19 related preventive measures.
The 8th and final phase will bring to an end the high octane electoral battle in the state. The counting of votes will be taken up on May 2.