West Bengal likely to hold civic polls in December

Kolkata: West Bengal’s State Election Commission is looking for the state government’s permission to conduct pending elections to 112 urban civic bodies, including two Municipal Corporations of Kolkata and Howrah, in December and once they get the green signal, a notification might be issued after the October 30 Assembly bypolls.

“The civic body elections are pending for more than 18 months because of the pandemic situation and the subsequent lockdown. We want to complete the polls as soon as possible. We need the financial sanction from the Finance Department. Once the state government gives us the clearance, we will be in a position to announce the dates,” a senior SEC official said.

A senior Finance Department official said: “The Commission has asked for Rs 185 crore to complete the polls in 112 municipalities. That is almost double the cost of the previous poll five years ago. We are working on it. It will be sent to the Chief Minister for clearance soon.”

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Sources in the SEC indicated that the poll body is likely to conduct the elections in three phases where the election in Kolkata and Howrah Municipal Corporations will be held in the first phase, for municipalities in south Bengal in the second phase and the rest of the municipalities in north Bengal in the third phase. Sources also indicated that though the dates of the elections are yet to be finalised, the poll body is likely to conduct the election in the two corporations on or after the third week of December.

Apart from the financial sanction, the poll body will also have to look into the police arrangements and maintain the Covid protocol before the announcement of the polls.

“We will have to conduct elections in almost 22,000 booths in 112 municipalities and because of Covid, we need more election personnel and police arrangements. We have already spoken to the state government regarding this. We are fully prepared to conduct the polls,” an election official said.

Before the Durga Puja holiday, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee herself had hinted that the pending election of the civic bodies will be completed after the completion of the four Assembly bypolls in the state.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Urban Development Chandrima Bhattacharya on Monday said: “Whenever the State Election Commission announces the votes of 112 municipalities, we are fully prepared.”

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