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Civic polls postponed in Bengal after case surge

Devotees at  the Ganga Sagar Mela, which was held amid COVID restrictions, at Sagar Island on Saturday.

Devotees at the Ganga Sagar Mela, which was held amid COVID restrictions, at Sagar Island on Saturday.

The West Bengal State Election Commission on Saturday decided to postpone elections to four municipal corporations scheduled for January 22. However, despite a rise in COVID-19 cases, the State Government allowed some relaxations to its earlier announced restrictions.

Elections to Siliguri Municipal Corporation, Chandernagore Municipal Corporation, Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation and Asansol Municipal Corporation will now be held on February 12.

A notification by the State Election Commission said the decision has been taken in “compliance with the order of the Calcutta High Court, in the matter WPA(P) No. 4 of 2022 Bimal Bhattacharya vs State of West Bengal”, and in “consideration of the prevalent COVID-19 pandemic situation”.

The High Court on Friday had urged the SEC to take a decision on postponement by a short period of four to six weeks.

“Hence, we dispose of the present petition with a direction to the State Election Commission to consider the galloping speed with which the COVID-19 cases are increasing and also to take into account the issue if holding of elections in such a situation will be in the public interest and if free and fair elections will be possible on the dates notified, and take a decision in respect of the postponement of date of elections of aforesaid four municipal corporations for a short period of 4 to 6 weeks,” an order by the Bench by Chief Justice Prakash Srivastava and Justice Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee said.

The decision was welcomed by all political parties. BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said despite the High Court order, the State government and the WBSEC have not fully accepted it.

Trinamool Congress leader and State Minister Partha Chatterjee said the State government and the WBSEC have taken the decision in view of the gravity of the situation. He added that civic polls in the State are being deferred, while the Assembly polls in five States are being held as per schedule.

About 17 lakh voters across four districts will exercise their franchise to elect over 200 ward councillors.

New relaxations

The State government extended existing COVID-19 restrictions till January 3, but announced additional relaxations.

These include allowing 200 people at marriages or 50% of seating capacity of the venue, and holding mela or fair in open air venues, strictly following COVID-19 appropriate discipline and protocol.

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Printable version | May 29, 2022 5:43:25 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/civic-polls-postponed-in-bengal-after-case-surge/article38276062.ece