18 APRIL – 11 MAY PROBABLE POLLING WINDOW; LWE DISTRICTS OR NORTH BENGAL TO VOTE FIRST
By bappaditya paul
The Lok Sabha poll in West Bengal, in all probability, will be held in four phases from mid-April with more or less equal number of parliamentary constituencies voting in each phases. Either north Bengal or the three Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-affected districts along with contiguous Burdwan is likely to vote in the first phase.
The total number of Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal is 42. Of them, seven constituencies fall in LWE-hit West Midnapore, Birbhum, Bankura and Purulia districts. Burdwan has three seats. In the six North Bengal districts, the number of constituencies is eight and the neighbouring Murshidabad has three.
The rationale behind planning an early poll in the LWE-affected areas is the extreme heat that the region experiences from late April.
“In the 2011 Assembly poll, voting in LWE areas was held in two phases in the month of May when it was extremely hot. The administration faced a real tough time and a few polling officials and voters had even died of sunstroke,” a source from the state Chief Electoral Office (CEO) said.
“Keeping this in mind, it has been proposed that the polling be held in the LWE areas first when the temperature is relatively low.”
“If not the LWE-hit areas, then north Bengal and the contiguous Murshidabad will be the one to vote in the first phase. In that case, the poll in LWE districts and Burdwan will be conducted in the second phase,” said another EC source.
The logic behind placing North Bengal in one of the first two phases is the early arrival of monsoon in the region that often results in flood-like situation.
Next, the 10 Lok Sabha constituencies falling in Howrah (2), Hooghly (3), East Midnapore (3) and Nadia (2) are likely to vote in the third phase.
This will be followed by the last and fourth phase polling in two constituencies in Kolkata, five in North 24-Parganas and four in South 24-Parganas.
“The four-phase poll has been proposed by the state CEO’s office on the basis of ground realities prevailing in West Bengal. The EC however, might modify the phases, as the Lok Sabha polls are to be held throughout the country,” said the EC source.
In 2009, the Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal were held in three phases on 30 April, 7 May and 13 May.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman under a different headline on 28 February 2014.)