A six-member Trinamool Congress delegation met the Election Commission on Thursday and urged it to conduct bypolls in six vacant West Bengal Assembly seats at the earliest.
In a memorandum submitted to the poll panel, it stated that with the decreasing number of coronavirus cases in the state, conditions are conducive for conducting the bypolls with appropriate Covid protocols in place.
“The number of Covid-19 cases is at least 17 times lower now with fewer than 831 cases reported till July 14. The positivity rate was 33 per cent during the assembly polls but now it has come down to less than 2 per cent. Hence, it is conducive to hold the by-polls to the aforementioned constituencies at this time. Going by the steady decline, it is expected that by the time the by-elections are announced and conducted, the number of daily cases will decrease further,” the party said.
Addressing media after the meeting in New Delhi, Trinamool Parliamentary Party Leader Sudip Bandopadhyay said: “We had a meeting in a cordial atmosphere and they had listened to everything very carefully. They has also apprised us of the situation and told that the Commission is keeping a close watch on the situation. We are hopeful that something positive will come out of the meeting.”
The byelections are of critical importance to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who lost the Assembly poll to BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari in Nandigram.
The Constitution allows a person to occupy a ministerial position only up to six months without getting elected to a state legislature or Parliament. It mandates that a minister who is not a member of legislature for six consecutive months shall cease to occupy the position at the expiration of that period.
Thus, Banerjee needs to get elected to the Assembly by November 4 to continue as the Chief Minister.
Asked about the bypolls, the Chief Minister said: “The Election Commission asked us about the election to two Rajya Sabha seats but they didn’t ask anything about the Assembly seats. We have informed that we are prepared enough to conduct elections for both Rajya Sabha and the assembly seats that are lying vacant.
Dinhata and Santipur assembly seats fell vacant after BJP leaders Nisith Pramanik and Jagannath Sarkar resigned as MLAs and chose to retain their membership of Parliament. Mamata Banerjee’s pocket borough of Bhawanipore also fell vacant after state minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay resigned to facilitate her election from the seat.
Byelections to Khardah and Gosaba seats in North and South 24 Parganas, respectively, are to be held after the death of Trinamool’s Kajal Sinha and Jayanta Naskar due to Covid.
Elections to Samserganj and Jangipur seats in Murshidabad had been countermanded following the death of candidates and later postponed indefinitely as Covid-19 raged across the state during the second wave.
Currently, Banerjee and Finance Minister Amit Mitra are the two non-legislators in the ministry but Mitra has expressed his desire to step down due to ill-health.