Uncertainty looms large over Bengal civic polls amid COVID-19 scare

Kolkata, Mar 15 (PTI) Uncertainty looms over the upcoming civic polls in West Bengal as political parties and the State Election Commission are yet to decide whether to move ahead with the elections as per schedule or postpone it by a few weeks amid the coronavirus scare.

No official notification or announcement has been made by the State Election Commission (SEC) on the polls so far, but official sources claim the state government is keen on holding the elections between April 12 and 26.

A decision is likely to be taken at an all-party meeting convened by the SEC on March 16, they said.

'The elections will either be held in April-May, chances of which look quite slim, or it will be postponed,' a senior official of the SEC said.

The ruling TMC said discussion on the matter is underway.

'Nothing has been decided so far. Holding election campaigns right now might be a risky thing to do,' a senior leader of the ruling party said.

Opposition BJP and the CPI(M) feel elections to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation and 107 municipalities are long overdue and the process should not be delayed any further.

Both the parties, however, have agreed to abide by the 'pro-people' decision taken by the SEC.

'We want the SEC and the government to take a legitimate and logical decision, keeping in mind the poll schedule and the coronavirus scare,' BJP state vice president Jaiprakash Majumdar said.

Echoing him, senior CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said it is for the state government and the SEC to take a call on the matter, but the party would support 'any pro-people decision regarding the matter'.

'Elections to most of the civic bodies have been pending for more than a year. The state government delayed the process to serve its narrow political interests. Now we have a situation where only the state government can take the call,' Chakraborty said.

The West Bengal government on Saturday announced to shut down all educational institutions from March 16 to 31 as part of its precautionary measures to check the spread of coronavirus.

The board exams, however, would continue as per schedule.

Elections to 107 municipalities of the state and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) are being viewed as a litmus test for the TMC and the BJP, ahead of the crucial 2021 Assembly polls in West Bengal.