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Bengal Panchayat Polls: How the HC Order Could Impact Muslim Vote Percentage and Mamata's Fortunes

Political observers feel that the new dates could be crucial as there are chances that the vote percentage could decline as fasting Muslims may not come out to cast their ballot in the same numbers.

Sujit Nath | News18.com

Updated:April 20, 2018, 11:08 PM IST
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Bengal Panchayat Polls: How the HC Order Could Impact Muslim Vote Percentage and Mamata's Fortunes
File photo of Mamata Banerjee.
Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court order asking the State Election Commission (SEC) to extend the deadline for panchayat poll candidates to file nominations could have an indirect impact on the vote percentages.

The HC decision would also require the SEC to reschedule panchayat elections that were earlier to be held on May 1, 3 and 5 and could push the poll dates to the Ramzan period.

Even if the SEC keeps the last date of filing nomination April 21, i.e. Saturday, it will have to maintain a gap of minimum 21 days to conduct the first phase of panchayat poll – which will be on May 11. But if the SEC keeps it Monday, or April 23, then the first phase of polls would be shifted back to May 13.

In that case, the rest of the phases will fall during the Ramzan period, which starts from May 15. The SEC would also have to keep another day for re-polling.

Political observers feel that the new dates could be crucial as there are chances that the vote percentage could decline as fasting Muslims may not come out to cast their ballot in the same numbers.

Experts said that this is exactly what Mamata Banerjee had been hoping to avoid as the BJP has established itself as the principal opposition in the date and the Muslim vote would be crucial for TMC.

This is why she had opposed any extension in dates so firmly. Despite the setback, the West Bengal Chief Minister said on Friday that she welcomed the order.

She requested the SEC to announce poll dates at the earliest due to the looming Muslim Holy month from May 15 and increasing temperatures in the state.

"I would like to request the SEC to announce the poll dates at the earliest because in the coming few days, weather condition will be harsh in Bengal, especially in Birbhum, Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura, she said.

"Also, during Ramzan, Muslim brothers keep fasting and they may face problem. There are nearly 30% Muslims in Bengal. People could die in extreme weather condition and therefore I am stressing for polls at the earliest," she added.

When asked whether the government is planning to appeal against the decision, she said, "Why should we? There is no question of that. We welcome today's decision."

The BJP said that if the TMC loses out on some Muslim votes, it was due to its own blunders.

"Muslim community leaders are unhappy with the state government because it is likely that the poll will happen during Ramzan period. The ruling party is responsible for the present situation because they prevented the Opposition from filing nomination," state BJP head Dilip Ghosh said.

"The good thing about the Muslim community is there complete participation in the polling. But now because of ruling party's hooliganism the poll date postponed. They (Muslim community) are unhappy and it will certainly have some impact in the poll results," he added.

CPI(M)'s Sujan Chakraborty said the Calcutta High Court's ruling “was a slap on the ruling party in Bengal." "The current situation arises because the SEC and the state government completely failed in ensuring free and fair election. The administration and police have tuned into an agent of the ruling party. It is a victory for us," he said.

Congress' Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury called the order a moral victory. "The EC was acting on behalf of the state government. I have also requested the high court for deployment of central forces during panchayat polls," he said.

A single-judge bench of Justice Subrata Talukdar had earlier in the day asked the poll panel to consult with the state government for the fresh dates and issue a notification soon. The order was passed in response to a writ petition filed by the state's opposition parties alleging large scale violence and intimidation by the ruling TMC that led to obstruction in filing of nominations.

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| Edited by: Bijaya Das
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