West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said her government has informed the Election Commission that the state was prepared to hold the pending by-elections to seven assembly seats as the COVID-19 situation is these poll-bound areas are largely under control. Banerjee, during a press meet here, noted that the EC had sought to know if Bengal was ready to conduct polls to two vacant Rajya Sabha seats, and the chief secretary, in his reply, gave assurance that the state could also hold bypolls to the seven assembly constituencies, while adhering to all COVID-19 guidelines.
"With the COVID-19 positivity rate having come down to 1.5 per cent in Bengal, the situation is conducive to conduct the by-elections as most of the poll-bound areas haven't reported any fresh infection of late," she said. In a jibe at the BJP, which claimed that Banerjee is desperately waiting for the bypolls as she needs to get elected to the Assembly to retain the CM's chair, the TMC boss said the saffron party is opposed to the demand as it knows well that it won't be able to clinch any seat.
"We have placed our demands before the EC following all constitutional norms. There is nothing illegal about it.If an emergency situation arises, the EC will accordingly take a decision. But isn't COVID-19 under control in the seven seats now? Several wards of Bhabanipur havent reported any case over the past few days," she pointed out.
Banerjee, who lost the elections from Nandigram, is expected to file nomination from Bhabanipur, which was vacated by winning TMC candidate Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, shortly after the results were declared. Chattopadhyay is slated to contest by-election from Khardah, which fell vacant after TMC's Kajal Sinha succumbed to COVID-19.
In Gosaba, too, TMC winning candidate Jayanta Naskar died of COVID-related complications. Polls were countermanded in Jangipur and Samserganj following the death of candidates, also due to the viral disease.
In Dinhata and Santipur, the winning BJP nominees quit as MLAs as they wanted to retain parliamentary berths. Two Rajya Sabha seats fell vacant in the state after Dinesh Trivedi quit the membership of the Upper House in February this year, having switched to the BJP from the TMC, and Manas Bhuniya's election as an MLA in the March-April Assembly polls.
Meanwhile, a TMC delegation — comprising MPs Derek O'Brien, Sukhendu Sekhar Roy and Sudip Bandyopadhyay — visited the EC office in Delhi on Thursday and appealed to the poll panel to conduct bypolls in Bengal at the earliest. The party, in a memorandum to the EC, said that if assembly elections could be held at the height of the pandemic, bypolls could be held at a time when the cases were significantly lower.