Bengal to see 7-phase election when even disturbed J&K will have 5 phases: A sorry affair
Kolkata, March 10: The schedule of the 17th Lok Sabha election was announced by the Election Commission of India (ECI). The election will take place over seven phases starting April 11 and continuing till May 19 with the election results announced on May 23.
In 1999, Bengal had 1 phase election; in 2019, it's seven
Three states will see elections taking place on their soil on all seven days and they are West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Of these, Bengal has 42 seats and the seven-phase polling in the state will be the longest it will see in a national election. In 1999, Bengal had gone to a single-phase polling while in 2004 and 2009, it saw a three-phase polling.
Last time, the number of phases of polling in Bengal was five. And now, it is seven. It's quite a parameter to see how things have deteriorated in Bengal over two decades - politically.
For the state, it is certainly not an encouraging sign. In the recent past, Assembly elections in the state have also witnessed several phases while panchayat elections were so marred by violence that they were virtually turned into farce.
The BJP has taken a jibe at the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) saying seven-phase polling in the state shows the law and order situation in the state. The TMC was not impressed with the multi-phase polling and said factors like heat and Ramzan will make it difficult for people to cast their ballots.
The Left Front said it didn't matter in how many phases the election takes place but that it should be fair.
The fact that Bengal will have election in phases even more than those in the disturbed Jammu and Kashmir (five) clearly speaks about the volatile political situation there. By increasing the number of days of election, the ECI will look to ensure that more protection is put in place for a fair election and bullying of voters is kept at a minimum.
But even then one can't really assure that elections in Bengal will be fair for the state is deeply polarised on the level of party politics. It is something which is ingrained in the state's political culture and the latest major combatants are the TMC and BJP.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has asked her party to secure all 42 seats while the BJP has also vowed to curb the TMC's power in the state with an eye to topple it from power in 2021. The Congress and Left have forged an alliance on the other hand to unify the anti-TMC and anti-BJP votes. It's going to a fierce three-way fight in Bengal this time with Banerjee and the BJP set to dominate the tussle.
The growing number of days devoted to election in Bengal, once considered one of the most progressive states of the country, is a dangerous trend for politically, it has turned into a tinderbox. Identity politics has spread its wings in the state with the eclipse of the secular and Leftist brand of politics and both Banerjee and the BJP have fed each other's political arsenal, charging up the atmosphere in the state.
It will be hoped that the ECI succeeds in keeping the violence to the minimum in the upcoming Lok Sabha election for an escalation in violence will make things precarious in the border state and encourage the evil elements to make use of the situation.
For the administration of Banerjee who vowed to bring 'Parivartan' eight years ago, this is a story that disappoints.