|In the poll-bound West Bengal, all the necessary preparations are being finalised for the Eighth and Final Phase polling of Assembly Elections on Thursday. The polling will be conducted from 7.00 A.M. to 6.30 P.M. The polling process is already over in respect of 257 out of the total 294 Assembly seats in the earlier seven phases. Over 76 per cent voter turnout was recorded in the Seventh Phase of polling yesterday. Thirty five Assembly Constituencies spread over four districts will go to polls in this phase. The counting of votes will be taken up together on 2nd of May.
The Election Commission 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 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, 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 the 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 high-profile electioneering campaign for the Final Phase of Assembly Elections concluded last evening. The campaign was largely moved to the virtual platform and airwaves in the remaining phase following directives of the Election Commission in view of the recent spike in the COVID-19 infections in the state. In the wake of prevalent COVID situation, all the prominent political parties decided not to hold big rallies and public meetings in the poll-bound areas and the party workers focussed on the door to door campaign and corner meetings.
Earlier, the poll body had decided to curtail the campaign timing for the remaining phases of Assembly Elections. It also extended the Silence Period from 48 hours to 72 hours before polling and as a result, the Final Phase campaign came to an end last evening.
During the Eighth Phase, total 283 candidates including 35 women will be vying for the 35 Assembly seats spread over four districts of West Bengal going to polls on Thursday. Over 84.77 lakh voters including 41.21 lakh women and 158 Third Gender persons will decide the fate of these candidates. Total 11,860 Polling Stations have been set up for this purpose. Ruling AITC and Bharatiya Janata Party are contesting for all the 35 seats. Congress, the Left parties and their alliance partner Indian Secular Front are fighting under the banner of Sanyukta Morcha. Bahujan Samaj Party has fielded 24 candidates, Congress has 19, CPI (M) – 10, ISF – four, AIFB – three and RSP – one while there are 87 independents along with 65 others also in the fray.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission issued fresh poll notifications in respect of Samserganj and Jangipur Assembly Constituencies in West Bengal where the poll process was adjourned due to death of the concerned candidates. The polling in these two constituencies will now be held on 16th of May and the whole process of elections will be completed by 21st of May. Similarly, in case of Assembly By-poll to Pipili seat in Odisha, the polling will be held on 16th of May and the counting of votes will be taken up on 19th of May.