The BJP's West Bengal unit on Sunday welcomed the Election Commission's decision to hold seven-phase Lok Sabha polls in the state, claiming that the schedule was proof that the state lacks a conducive atmosphere for free and fair elections under the Mamata Banerjee government.
"We welcome this announcement. People of Bengal wanted to vote freely. Their right to vote has been snatched away by the ruling Trinamool Congress. The announcement shows that the EC has gauged the current situation in West Bengal and hence have decided to hold polling in seven phases in the state," Bharatiya Janata Party National General secretary Rahul Sinha told reporters here.
"There are total 42 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal. So seven-phase polling means each polling day should have elections in six seats. But in reality, some dates have polling in only two or three seats here. Through this, the EC is trying to say that these seats are very sensitive and free and fair election do not take place in these places," he added
Sinha claimed that EC's announcement also shows that the electoral body has no faith in the state police and is willing to conduct polling in Bengal by deputing maximum number of paramilitary forces available.
"We had previously appealed that the CRPF deployment should be done under the supervision of the police observers from outside and not by the state police. We also appealed that the EC should take full responsibility of supervising the police forces here. It seems they have considered our appeals."
Claiming that the state's ruling Trinamool is "shaking in fear" following EC's announcement, the BJP leader challenged them to let people vote freely and accept people's verdict.
"Trinamool is shaking in fear of the seven-phase elections. If they have the guts to accept people's verdict, why are they worrying whether the polling here is held in seven phases or 25 phases?" he asked.
Taking a swipe at state minister Firhad Hakim for questioning the timing of polls during the Muslim month of Ramadan, Sinha accused the Trinamool of trying to communalise the election to consolidate the Muslim votes in the state.
Echoing BJP's claims, Congress state Vice President Om Prakash Mishra said the EC opted for such a lengthy poll process as the state is "violence-prone" and "electoral manipulation has be come an unfortunate reality and the norm" in Trinamool's rule.
"There is lot of insecurity among the electorate after the way the panchayat poll was conducted and the way the Trinamool looted the votes.
"The Election Commission may have taken note of that and in order to ensure the deployment of adequate police and polling personnel, they have opted for the staggered polling process," he said.
However, Mishra said the long-drawn schedule would affect normal life and should have been avoided. "The Commission could have attempted to compress the dates and gone for a five-phase poll as was done in the 2014 Lok Sabha election."
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)