The controversy stemmed from the notification of the commission where the highest electoral body, quoting chief secretary of the state H.K. Diwedi, said that the bypoll in Bhabanipur constituency is being conducted because of the ‘special request’ from the Government of West Bengal.
The Election Commission quoting chief secretary H.K. Diwedi, in its notification on Saturday said, “He (Chief Secretary ) cited that under Article 164(4) of the Constitution of India, a Minister who is not a member of the Legislature of the State for a period of six consecutive months shall at the expiration of that period cease to be a Minister and there will be a constitutional crisis and vacuum in the top executive posts in the government unless elections are held immediately.
He has also informed that in view of administrative exigencies and public interest and to avoid vacuum in the state, bye-elections for 159- Bhabanipur, Kolkata from where Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister intends to contest elections may be conducted”.
“Taking into consideration the inputs and views of the Chief Secretaries Concerned States and respective Chief Electoral Officers, while the Commission has decided not to hold bye-elections in other 31 Assembly Constituencies and 3 Parliamentary Constituencies and considering the constitutional exigency and special request from the State of West Bengal, it has decided to hold bye-election in 159-Bhabanipur AC,” the notification added.
The notification immediately attracted debate in political circles. BJP Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari said, “There is no understanding between the Election Commission and the BJP. Will the Election Commission be able to explain why bypolls are not being held in 31 Assembly constituencies in the country? The state chief secretary Hare Krishna Diwedi wrote to the Election Commission that if there is no bye-election in Bhabanipur, there will be a constitutional crisis in the state. He can’t write that. Bye-elections are not being held in six more constituencies. What complication is being created for that? We will make this an issue”.
“We wanted an election in all the places but the Election Commission decided to conduct polls only in Bhabanipur. The Election Commission is an autonomous administrative body and they are free to make their own decisions. How can the Trinamool Congress influence the commission? We have no role in this. Wherever there is an election we will win,” Trinamool youth leader Debanshu Bhattacharya said.
Political experts are of the opinion that a chief secretary cannot make a request for a particular constituency. “Being the chief secretary of the state, he cannot say this. He has not been entrusted with the responsibility to lead Mamata Banerjee to victory. The candidates have not been announced and it is technically impossible for him to know who will be the candidate,” Sephologist Biswanath Chakraborty said.
On Saturday, the ECI announced the date for the bye-election in Bhabanipur and election in two other Assembly constituencies — Samserganj and Jangipur in Murshidabad district on Saturday. The elections in these three constituencies will be held on September 30 and counting is scheduled to be held on October 3.
The elections in Samserganj and Jangipur were withheld because of the death of the candidates before polls during the recently concluded Assembly election in West Bengal. On the other hand, bye-election in the Bhabanipur Assembly constituency is scheduled because the existing MLA Sovondeb Chattopadhyay resigned to make room for chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
Banerjee lost to the Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhiakri in Nandigram in the recently concluded polls and is still not an elected member of the Legislative body.