Citing low COVID cases, TMC urges EC to hold by-elections

West Bengal CM Mamata BanerjeeSource: Hindustan Times

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee needs to win by-elections to remain in power

Malavika.P.M

A delegation of five All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) leaders gave a memorandum to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to have the byelection in seven constituencies in West Bengal, at the earliest on Thursday. 

The number of COVID-19 cases and the test positivity rate reported in the state have come down sharply. On Thursday, the active cases in West Bengal fell by 18 to reach 9,167. 

In their memorandum, TMC leaders that the daily cases are now 17 times lower than what they were in April when the state legislative assembly elections were held. 

The number of COVID-19 cases in West Bengal has now come down sharply and the positivity rate has plummeted. Daily cases are about 17 times lower now in the state as a whole than what they were when the general elections were held. Likewise, the aforesaid constituencies in which by-elections have to be held, have also witnessed a sharp drop in the number of cases.

Graph of COVID cases in West Bengal from June 2020 to August 2021, depicting a current decline in the state.
Source: Ministry of Health

“The Chief Election Commissioner Mr. Rajiv Kumar also hinted that the by-elections in the seven states can take place in two phases rather than one,” added Roy.

From TMC, Sukhendu Sekhar Ray, Saugata Roy, Sajda Ahmed, Jawhar Sircar and Mahua Moitra met ECI on Thursday. This is not the first time the TMC delegation has given a memorandum to conduct the by-elections in the state. TMC had submitted one on July 15 and one on August 6.

Also read: Aftermath of Mamata’s Nandigram Loss: TMC Delegation Meets EC on Bypolls

The seven constituencies which will go to the polls are Bhabanipur, Kharadha, Gosaba, Dinhata and Shantipur. Elections in two of these constituencies – Shamsherganj and Janipur- could not be held as the candidates succumbed to COVID-19.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who lost the Nandigram seat to BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari, is likely to contest from Kolkata’s Bhabanipur constituency – which was vacated by winning TMC candidate Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay.

According to Article 164(4) of the Constitution of India, Banerjee has to get elected to the Assembly within six months of taking oath as the CM to be able to retain the chair, failing which she will have to step down as the chief minister. This is the reason why Banerjee is struggling tooth and nail to convince the ECI to hold the by-elections.

WHAT IS A BY-ELECTION? by Malavika P.M

The ruling camp led by Mamata Banerjee has been arguing that if an eight-phase election could be held amid the peak of the second wave of the coronavirus disease, there was no reason to delay the byelections at a time when there has been a significant fall in fresh cases in the state.

Though Mamata is quite keen to hold the by-elections as early as possible, BJP is not quite in the mood for that as the delaying of the by-elections would benefit them. According to an article in India Today, Mamata Banerjee’s former right-hand man Suvendu Adhikari in his recent meeting with Amit Shah tried to impress upon the Union Home Minister that the by-polls should not be held immediately due to the Covid situation.

Adhikari has been arguing that since trains haven’t begun due to the pandemic, elections too should be postponed.

Bengal government is reducing CPVID cases. They are hiding real data to win by-polls- Suvendu Adhikari

Also read: Suvendu Adhikari: Why rush bypolls amid Covid?

Even though TMC and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee are desperate to get elected again to the Chief Minister’s Office, the ECI has valid reasons not to hold the by-elections.

Though the number of Covid-19-positive cases in Bengal has registered a sharp decline over the last two months, a third wave is expected and the medical community as well the central government has issued warnings. The impending third wave is the reason she has not lifted all the curbs imposed in the state, even though she argues that “Covid cases are under control”.

There are restrictions on the movement of people, educational institutions remain closed, offices and business establishments are not functioning normally, and even local train services remain suspended.

But the more forceful argument presented by the Opposition and critics is that the Mamata-led government has consistently cancelled elections for the 107 civic bodies in West Bengal on account of the pandemic. 

Also read: Tale of 2 Bengal polls: Opposition demands civic polls but Trinamool wants bypolls first

Opposition parties are looking forward to the prospect where Mamata Banerjee would have to step down and can’t nominate her trusted nephew- Abhishek Banerjee- to succeed her as he is her trump card in the Lok Sabha. 

Opposition parties, especially BJP, has nothing to lose and everything to win with the postponement of the by-elections. On the other hand, Mamata Banerjee will face a grave political crisis, which would be the result of her own making.