New Delhi [India], February 26 (ANI): The Election Commission of India on Friday announced that West Bengal will witness eight-phased Assembly polls beginning March 27.
The counting of votes will take place on May 2.
Addressing a press conference, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said: "West Bengal will see eight-phase elections. 30 Assembly constituencies in five districts will go to polls in the first phase on March 27. 30 Assembly constituencies in four districts will go to polls in the second phase on April 1. In the third phase, 31 constituencies in 3 districts will go to polls on April 6. 44 constituencies in five districts will go for polling on April 10.""In the fifth phase, 45 constituencies in six districts will witness polling on April 17. 43 constituencies in four districts in the sixth phase will go to polls on April 22. 36 constituencies in five districts in the seventh phase will go for polling on April 26. In the eighth and final phase, 35 constituencies in four districts will witness polling on April 29," he said.
The ECI has appointed two special police observers -- Vivek Dubey and MK Das -- for West Bengal.
With the announcement of the election schedule, the Model Code of Conduct has come into force in the state.
"Model Code of Conduct to come into force immediately after the announcement of the election dates. The commission has made adequate arrangements to ensure effective implementation of MCC guidelines," Arora said.
Besides West Bengal, the ECI also announced the election schedule for Tamil Nadu, Assam, Puducherry and Kerala.
The CEC said adequate CAPFs deployment shall be ensured during elections. "All critical, vulnerable polling stations identified and an adequate number of CAPFs will be deployed. Advance teams are already deployed in these states/UT," he said.
"Postal ballot facility has been extended as an option to senior citizens aged 80 years and above, persons with disabilities and electors employed in essential services. A separate SOP (standard operating procedure) is there for COVID-19 patients, suspect COVID-19 patient. Polling time has been uniformly increased," Arora added.
The CEC said door-to-door campaigning has been restricted to five persons including the candidate. Roadshows are allowed subjected to convoy breaking after five vehicles, he added.
"A 824 Assembly constituencies shall be going to polls. 18.68 crore voters will cast votes at 2.7 lakh polling stations in states/UT. More than 3 lakh service vote electors will be availing facilities of electronic transmitted postal ballet system," Arora informed.
The tenure of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will end on May 30 this year.
West Bengal is likely to witness a triangular contest this time with TMC, Congress-Left alliance and BJP in the fray.
While Mamata Banerjee is seeking her third consecutive term, BJP has set a target of winning 200 seats in the 294-member state Assembly. Congress and the Left have stitched the alliance for the polls and had already finalised the seat-sharing agreement. They are also in touch with the Indian Secular Front (ISF), recently floated by influential minority leader Abbas Siddique.
In 2016, West Bengal Assembly elections, out of the 294 seats, Congress had managed to win 44 seats while the Left Front bagged 33 seats. The ruling TMC secured 211 seats and the BJP had won 3 seats.
The BJP made deep inroads in the state in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections winning 18 seats and decimating TMC's tally to 22. Out of the total 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in West Bengal, Congress won two seats, the Left drew a blank.
After BJP's performance in the 2019 polls, several TMC leaders have joined the party led by JP Nadda.
It has been seen that elections in West Bengal are marred by violence. The Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) have started moving to four poll-bound states and one Union Territory -- Tamil Nadu, Assam, Puducherry, West Bengal and Kerala -- to ensure peaceful conduct of Assembly elections.
According to official communication, accessed by ANI, a total of 45 CAPFs companies will be deployed in Tamil Nadu, 40 in Assam, 10 in Puducherry, 125 in West Bengal and 30 companies in Kerala. (ANI)