Finally, the West Bengal election comes to an end on Thursday (May 5). This year's election, which went on for seven phases (technically six) for more than a month is the longest the state has seen. The gap between the last polling day and the declaration of the results (May 19) is also the longest.
Only the US presidential election is a longer poll exercise this year
To expand the horizon, the month-long election in Bengal made it the second-longest polling exercise this year after the presidential election in the United States. The primary/caucus phase of this year's presidential election in the US started on February 1 and the general elections will be held on November 8 after the Republicans and Democrats finalise their respective nominations.
In fact, the election in Bengal started when the GOP in the US had three presidential runners and when it concluded on Thursday, only Donald Trump was left in the fray. [After Ted Cruz, John Kasich also withdraws]
Bengal can't be compared to US but even TN with 234 seats have a single-day election
But there can be no comparisons between the US presidential election and the state election in West Bengal. The former is the national election of a country which is far bigger than India and includes polling in 50 states of the Union. The Bengal election, on the other hand, is just about the election in a small state of India. Was it a real loss of face for Bengal? Even Tamil Nadu, a much bigger state than Bengal with 234 seats (60 less than Bengal) is going to a one-day election on May 16. [Did a long election hurt Mamata Banerjee?]
It's certainly not a matter of pride that Bengal has to go through such a long election procedure like the biggest state of UP (403 seats) or the national election (543 seats) for it only means bigger expenditure of time, money and man power. [Mamata's superhuman efforts in covering month-long election]
But given the state's record in political violence, was there another way?
But at the same time, given the state's record of political violence, the election authorities could do little else other than taking constituency by constituency.
The Election Commission and the central forces started slowly in this election but slowly gained momentum to ensure that the election is as free as possible. Still however, death of a Left poll agent couldn't be avoided in the violence-prone Domkol constituency in Murshidabad. But compared to high count of deaths in even local polls in Murshidabad district, the Assembly election this year was much peaceful.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had expressed her anguish after learning about the seven-phase election in Bengal and said it was a kind of injustice to the state. No ruler likes the election to drag on for it gives enough opportunity to the Opposition, especially if it is on a weak wicket, to compete till the last. But the EC, with which Banerjee had an ugly fight later during the election, couldn't help and rightly so.
Election is, after all, a festival of the people, by the people and for the people. Hooliganism and violence can not be allowed to rule the roost on days when the basics of a democracy are at work. True, for the politicians, voters, election officials and the media, the last one month has been hectic but yet all sides can take consolation from the fact that it was a worthy exercise.