New Delhi: Shortly after election dates were announced for four states and a Union Territory, a furious Mamata Banerjee alleged that eight-round voting in Bengal was part of a “conspiracy” by the centre’s ruling BJP. “Are Bengal poll dates announced per suggestions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah,” the Chief Minister questioned.
Bengal will begin voting on March 27 but unlike Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry, it will have eight phases spread over a record 33 days before the May 2 results.
The state had voted in seven phases in the 2016 state election and in the 2019 national polls. The Election Commission said the reason for more phases was the fear of violence.
“We had an assessment of law and order on several factors. Last time it was seven phases and eight is not a big deal,” Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora told reporters.
Mamata Banerjee accused the BJP of dictating the poll schedule, pointing out that other states with almost the same number of seats were voting on a single day.
“I came to know from BJP party sources. Their suggestions and your dates are the same. Why half-half district election every day? Is this on the advice of Modi and Shah? So that they can come and campaign here after they finish with Assam? This is a khela (sport). We will defeat you and turn you into ghosts. We are people of the grassroots,” she declared.
“I am the daughter of Bengal, I know the state better than the BJP; we will win even in eight phases. I will defeat all your conspiracies… people of Bengal will answer this insult.”
She alleged that constituencies where her Trinamool Congress was stronger had been divided in multiple rounds of voting.
“There will be a blunder and you will face the music,” she warned, accusing the BJP of targeting the “only woman Chief Minister in the country”.
Around 1,200 central paramilitary troops are on patrol in Bengal, which has seen a spurt in political violence and killings over the past two years.
The BJP welcomed the dates. The party has invested heavily in winning Bengal, especially after 2019, when it stunned the Trinamool Congress by scoring 18 of 42 Lok Sabha seats.
PM Modi and Amit Shah, besides other top BJP leaders, have prioritized Bengal in their campaign schedule. Most of these visits have seen mass defections from the Trinamool Congress to the BJP.