On being specially requested by the West Bengal government, the Election Commission of India has announced a by-poll in the Bhawanipur assembly constituency. It will be held on 30th September.
Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of the state, is to seek her entry into the assembly from this constituency. The result will be announced on October 3. Had the polls being not held, Banerjee would have to resign from the post of Chief Minister on November 5.
Along with Bhawanipur, by-polls will be held in Shamsherganj and Jangipur constituencies of Murshidabad district, where polls were stopped during the last assembly election due to the death of the candidates. Altogether by-polls will be held in four assembly seats of the country (the fourth one is Odisha’s Pipli) in this round, though altogether 35 assembly constituencies are lying vacant in the country, including another one in Bengal. Three Lok Sabha constituencies too are not represented at the moment.
In a press note, Election Commission has stated that the West Bengal chief secretary has asked it to arrange for a by-poll in Bhawanipur in view of administrative exigencies and public interest and to avoid a vacuum in the state.
It said, “While the commission has decided not to hold bye-elections in other 31 Assembly Constituencies and three Parliamentary constituencies (across India), considering the constitutional exigency and special request from the state of West Bengal, it has decided to hold bye-election in 159-Bhabanipur AC.”
This is a rare exception granted to Mamata Banerjee, who during the election had accused ECI of working at the behest of the Narendra Modi government.
After her erstwhile lieutenant for the Nandigram movement Suvendu Adhikari’s revolt, Banerjee decided to contest from Nandigram to show Suvendu his place. But she lost by a narrow margin. Her party however won 213 out of 292 seats that went to the poll.
Banerjee became the Chief Minister again, but she has to become a member of the assembly by November 5. Banerjee had won from Bhawanipur in 2011 and 2016.
(The author Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a senior journalist based in Kolkata. He has a wide range of experience in covering West Bengal politics and has authored several books)
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