At all-party meet, BJP says it is against clubbing of poll dates

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Kolkata, Apr 16 (PTI) The BJP Friday said it has told an all-party meeting called by the Chief Electoral Officer on the COVID-19 situation that it is against clubbing the next phases of West Bengal assembly elections since that would be disadvantageous for voters and candidates of the seats that are yet to go to polls.

BJP leader Swapan Dasgupta, who represented the party in the meeting, said the party does not want any step that would affect the 'democratic spirit'.

'We said that our party will abide by all COVID-19 protocols put in place by the Election Commission, and urged that no steps be taken that discriminates those voting in the next phases from those who have already exercised their franchise.

'We have not said anything about clubbing (of phases),... we feel that the elections will be held in eight phases,' Dasgupta told reporters after the meeting.

Asked about the rising number of infections and deaths due to COVID-19 in the state along with the rest of the country, he said that campaigning cannot be stopped, and also wondered how the rights of the contestants and the voters can be taken away.

Dasgupta said that virtual election meetings for the remaining phases are not possible as half of the eight phases have already been held.

'A level playing field has to be maintained...We have advised the Election Commission to balance the need for a robust democratic culture with safety norms.

'It is up to the Election Commission to tell us what exactly the political parties must do. We have assured the EC that under all circumstances, once it has laid down the procedures, the BJP will adhere to the norms faithfully.' He said that the saffron party will provide masks to its supporters and workers at public meetings to ensure that health protocols are maintained.

Assembly polls have been held for 135 constituencies in the state in four phases so far and the remaining 159 seats are slated to go to the polls in four phases between April 17 and 29.

Counting is scheduled for May 2. PTI AMR MM MM