Mamata Banerjee set to contest by-election on September 30
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is set to contest the Bhabanipur Assembly by-election on September 30, according to the schedule announced by the Election Commission of India today. Banerjee must win the by-poll so as to retain her CM position. She had lost a bitterly-fought contest from Nandigram to Suvendu Adhikari, her former aide who is now with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Results will be declared on October 3
The EC allowed by-elections for Bhabanipur and a few other seats in West Bengal and Odisha even as by-polls for 31 other constituencies have been deferred due to the COVID-19 situation. Votes will be counted on October 3, the poll body said. The last date of nomination is September 13 while candidates will be able to withdraw their names by September 16.
'Strict COVID-19 rules have been set,' EC says
"Considering the constitutional exigency and special request from the state of West Bengal, it has (been) decided to hold by-poll for AC 159 - Bhabanipur. Much stricter norms have been kept by the Commission as an abundant caution to safeguard from COVID-19," the EC said.
Banerjee had lost Nandigram seat by a narrow margin
Banerjee had left her stronghold of Bhabanipur to contest from Nandigram against Adhikari. However, she lost that contest by a narrow margin of 1,956 votes. Nevertheless, her party, the Trinamool Congress, won an overwhelming majority in the overall elections, bagging 213 of the 294 seats. Now, the CM must win an Assembly seat by November 5 to maintain her position, as per rules.
Banerjee has also moved court against Adhikari's election
In May, Trinamool MLA from Bhabanipur, Shobhandeb Chattopadhyay, resigned to allow Banerjee to contest. Chattopadhyay is the state's Agriculture Minister. Meanwhile, Banerjee has also challenged the Nandigram election result in the Calcutta High Court. She has contended that Adhikari's election should be declared void on several grounds - adhering to corrupt practices, seeking votes on the basis of religion, and booth capture.
EC had earlier received flak for holding polls
The Election Commission had received widespread criticism earlier this year for going ahead with the Assembly elections in several states even as COVID-19 ravaged India. Massive election rallies were held and protocols were violated by leaders as well as the public. Now that Banerjee-led state government has been pushing for by-polls, it has come under criticism from the Opposition BJP.