Voicing displeasure over the “delay” in holding elections to seven West Bengal assembly seats, crucial for Mamata Banerjee’s uninterrupted continuance as the chief minister, the TMC said on Wednesday a party delegation will meet the Election Commission on July 15 to press for it. Sukhendu Shekhar Ray, a senior leader of the state’s ruling paty, also taunted the poll panel, wondering whether it was “waiting for a third Covid wave” to conduct the elections.
Maintaining that the pandemic has eased considerably, Ray said the situation was conducive for holding the polls. Bypolls are to be held for five vacant seats, and fresh elections to two others where polling was countermanded following the death of candidates.
The byelections are of critical importance to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who lost the assembly poll to BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari in Nandigram. The Constitution allows a person to occupy a ministerial position only up to six months without getting elected to a state legislature or the two Houses of Parliament. It mandates that a minister who is not a member of legislature for six consecutive months shall cease to occupy the position at the expiration of that period.
Banerjee needs to get elected to the assembly by November 4 to continue as the chief minister. “We will be meeting EC officials tomorrow (Thursday) in Delhi with the demand to hold pending elections and byelections to seven assembly segments. The assembly elections were held in eight phases when COVID was at an all-time high.
But now the COVID situation has improved a lot. “The EC is delaying the byelections. Is it waiting for the third wave? We want the by-polls to be conducted as early as possible,” Ray, TMC chief whip in the Rajya Sabha, said.
Dinhata and Santipur assembly seats fell vacant after BJP leaders Nisith Pramanik and Jagannath Sarkar resigned as MLAs and chose to retain their membership of Parliament.Pramanik was inducted into the Modi government during its recent expansion.
Mamata Banerjee’s pocket borough of Bhawanipore fell vacant after state minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay resigned to facilitate her election from the seat. The TMC had fielded Chattopadhyay from Bhawanipore after the party supremo decided to take on her former protege Adhikari in Nandigram. Byelections to Khardah and Gosaba seats in North and South 24 Parganas respectively are to be held after the death of TMC’s Kajal Sinha and Jayanta Naskar due to Covid-19.
Elections to Samserganj and Jangipur seats in Murshidabad had been countermanded following the death of candidates and later postponed indefinitely as COVID-19 raged across the state during the second wave. Currently, Mamata Banerjee and Finance Minister Amit Mitra are the two non-legislators in the ministry.
Mitra has expressed his desire to step down due to ill-health, but Banerjee needs to win a byelection to enter the state assembly. The TMC had stormed back to power in May for a third consecutive term bagging 213 seats in the 294-member assembly.
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