The West Bengal Assembly elections will take place in 6 phases, not including an extra date for the first phase. Top officials of the Election Commission had discussed the dates with the state officials in Kolkata on January 10.
It is said that the Trinamool officials had requested the commission to schedule the polls in late April, largely because all the board and council examinations, like Madhyamik and Higher Secondary examinations will be over only by the middle of March.
But the election Commission decided to stick to the dates.
While both the parties had no choice, people of Bengal are highly dissatisfied. "Elections in Bengal means chaos. It is a huge state and during exams, the trouble would be double. Schools that hold polls end up being dirty at the end of the day. School authorities have to work extra time to set everything in place, including pasting the roll numbers and arranging the seats," said a school official, who did not want to be named.
Students' parents are bothered about the roads on these dates. "Imagine being stuck on the road while going for the exams. My sister had to go for her varsity exams last election and was late for her paper," said Sumanto, a private firm employee.
While these are just a few problems, there are other larger issues that the people of West Bengal have to deal with.
For instance, law and order. 6 phases of elections means tighter security, more restrictions and greater chaos. "There would be a tough competition this time between the CP(I)M, the BJP and the Trinamool and none would stay behind in getting an edge over the other.This would lead to clashes and problems for us. No amount of security can ensure common man's safety. What could have happened in a day, 6 days were assigned to it. Isn't that a deliberate attempt to build tension in the state?", said a daily wage labourer.
Mamata sees flak
Reiterating the concerns of the public, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee sees a conspiracy behind the security blanket of the 6-phase elections. Although not criticizing the ECI directly, she clearly showed her disappointment at the decision of the ECI.
"Even a state like Assam, which experiences communal tension, will have two-phase polling. We don't have such problems. Yet, it's six-phase for us," Mamata said.
She further added,"Bengal always ends up a victim of conspiracy." Lashing out at the Congress and the CP(I)M, she said that the duo are working in collaboration with the BJP here. Calling it "an immoral and unlawful alliance", she said,""There's no logic in CPM and Congress contesting against each other in Kerala because they are contesting in Bengal jointly."
She further added,"We'll contest on our own. We've always fought against CPM because that party believes in negativity. They believe in strikes and violence. They got the opportunity to rule for 34 years but did nothing."