Bhawanipur bypoll sets a precedent in electoral process

Kolkatata:  The bye-lection to high-profile Bhawanipur Assembly seat, where a little over two lakh electorate will exercise their franchise in tomorrow’s voting day, has many a first of its kind and sets a precedent for a number of reasons involving the executive, India’s supreme poll body – the ECI – and finally the judiciary.

The political drama began to unfold in May when TMC’s elected member Sovandeb Chattopadhyay resigned anticipating that their supreme leader Mamata Banerjee would contest the by-poll following her defeat at Nandigram to BJP candidate Suvendu Adhikari in March-April elections.

The TMC then began lobbying and campaigned for an immediate by-poll to the Bhawanipur seat as the chief minister has to prove her popular mandate within six months by November first week or else she will have to quit the office before her third term expires.
The ruling party had been pressing for repoll before the festival months even as the Covid- 19 restriction was imposed across the state in view of apprehension of a third wave pandemic.
While everyone thought that the ECI was not keen to hold a by-poll amidst the Opposition parties’ insistence to have the pending civic poll first, the country’s supreme poll body on September 6 announced to hold Bhawanipur by-poll at this month’s end.
The ECI’s announcement of bypoll in three assembly seats of Bhawanipur in the city and
Samshergunj and Jangipur in Murshidabad surprised many as the poll body ignored four other seats bye-poll in the state.
The ECI’s decision was challenged in a PIL in Calcutta High court , which strictured West Bengal chief secretary HK Diwedi during the judgement on Tuesday. Calcutta high court though ordered that the bypoll will be on schedule, its has strictured the
state chief secretary.
The Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court on Tuesday refused to interfere with the schedule of the by-election to the Bhawanipur Assembl seat to be conducted on Thursday.
The Bench of Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj, however, took exception to a letter by West Bengal Chief Secretary to the Election Commission of India (ECI).
“As the process of election was initiated with the issuance of press note dated September 04, 2021 and the polling has to be held of September 30, 2021 we do not find it appropriate to interfere with the decision of the Commission to hold by-election to Bhawanipur Assembly Constituency at this stage,” the order by the Bench said.

The court recorded its “strong reservation about the conduct of the Chief Secretary in writing a letter to the Election Commission stating
that there would be ‘constitutional crisis’ in case byelection to the Bhawanipur constituency is not held”.
“He is a public servant, who is to discharge his duties in terms of provisions of law, whosoever may be in power. He is not to ensure that

any particular person should come in power and in the absence there would be ‘constitutional crisis’,” the court further added.

Bhawanipur in south Kolkata where some 2,6,389 voters stay in eight municipal wards, has been home and citadel of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

This time she is pitted against BJP’s Priyanka Tibrewal and CPI(M)’s Srijib Biswas.

Though there are some nine more candidates, the contest is restricted to TMC and BJP where Banerjee is undoubtedly a heavyweight.
In the March-April election Sovandeb Chattopadhyay won the seat by

securing 57.71 percent votes while BJP candidate Rudranil Ghosh came second with 35.16 pc. Over 20 pc of people in Bhawanipore are Muslims while Sikhs and non-Bengali speaking Hindus comprise around 34 pc. Of the eight wards in this assembly segment, non-Bengali speaking Hindus comprise almost half the population in three wards.

But the persisting inclement weather and prediction of more rain may dampen the enthusiasm of both the political parties and electorate.
About 15 companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed and the booths have webcasting facility.