EC Announces Bypoll for Bhabanipur Assembly, Mamata To Contest
Mamata Banerjee had lost the Assembly elections held this year from the Nandigram constituency.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) has decided to hold the by-election in the Bhabanipur Assembly constituency of West Bengal on 30 September, where state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee "intends" to contest from.
Banerjee had contested and lost from the Nandigram Assembly constituency in the West Bengal Assembly elections held in April-May this year.
She was pitted against the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Suvendu Adhikari, who was earlier an important leader in the Trinamool Congress (TMC) that is led by Banerjee. However, inspite of her losing her seat, the TMC went on to win 213 seats in the 294-member Assembly.
Banerjee has cancelled her tour to North Bengal following the announcement. She is expected to file her nomination for the bypoll next week.
Polls will also be held in Samserganj and Jangipur constituencies of West Bengal and Odisha's Pipli on the same day. The counting of votes will take place on 3 October.
'Special Request' of West Bengal
Four other Assembly constituencies in Bengal are scheduled to have bypolls in the coming days. But the EC has decided to hold these in phases.
The press release issued by the EC said that the Chief Secretary of West Bengal had informed the electoral body that COVID-19 situation in the state is fully under control and that the recent floods had not affected the poll-bound Assembly constituencies.
"He (West Bengal Chief Secretary) has also informed that in view of administrative exigencies and public interest and to avoid vacuum in the state, bye-elections for 159-Bhabanipur, Kolkata from where Ms Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister, intends to contest election," said the release.
The bypolls in Bhabanipur was conducted in light of this "special request" from West Bengal, it further added.
The bypolls in the constituencies of Bhabanipur, Shamsherganj, and Suti, were necessitated as contesting candidates died before the elections could be held. In the constituencies of Santipur and Dinhata, the elected candidates of the BJP, (Jagannath Sarkar and Nisith Pramanik), who are also Members of Parliament (MP), resigned before taking oath as MLA as they wanted to continue as MP. In Khardah and Gosaba, where bypolls are also due, the elected candidates died after the polls were held.
Restrictions Put in Place in Light of COVID-19
In addition, certain restrictions have been placed on campaign activities in view of the prevailing COVID-19 situation.
Indoor rallies will be allowed with only 30 percent of total capacity or with a maximum of 200 persons, whichever is lesser. Outdoor rallies will be allowed with 50 percent of the total capacity of the venue or a maximum of 500 people. If the outdoor rallies are being conducted by "star campaigners" then the limit is 50 percent of capacity or up to a maximum of 1,000 people, again, whichever is lesser.
A national or state recognised party can only deploy a maximum of 20 star-campaigners for this by-election.
The EC has also completely disallowed any kind of roadshow, which includes motor, bike and cycle rallies.
A candidate or political party can use a maximum number of 20 vehicles for their campaigns, with each vehicle allowed to seat as many people as 50 percent of their total capacity.
Only four other people can accompany a candidate on door-to-door campaigns, and a maximum of 50 people are allowed at street corner meetings.
In case of campaigns through video vans, a maximum of 50 people will be allowed at one cluster.
The silent period will come into effect 72 hours before polling.
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