KOLKATA: The Chief Election Officer (CEO) of West Bengal, Aariz Aftab, has directed officials to conduct checking of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines in seven assembly seats that are lying vacant due to deaths of candidates or resignation of MLAs, an official said on Saturday.
Aftab’s order was issued on Friday, a day after a Trinamool Congress parliamentary party delegation met the Election Commission in Delhi to press for its demand for holding by-polls to the vacant assembly seats in the state at the earliest.
The TMC is keen on the bypolls as party supremo Mamata Banerjee, who lost the assembly election from Nandigram, will have to get elected within six months to continue as the chief minister.
In that case, the bypolls must be conducted by November 5.
“The CEO has written to the district election officers (DEOs) of Cooch Behar, Nadia, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas and Kolkata Dakshin to start the first-level checking of the EVMs & VVPATs before the by-elections due there are held,” the official told PTI.
The DEOs have been instructed to conduct the checking between August 3 and 6 strictly following Covid-19 protocols,” the official said.
The bypolls are due in the constituencies of Bhabanipur, Khardah, Gosaba, Shantipur, Jangipur, Samserganj and Dinhata.
Banerjee is expected to file nomination from Bhabanipur in Kolkata, which was vacated by winning TMC candidate Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, days after the results were declared.
Chattopadhyay is slated to contest the by-election from Khardah in North 24 Parganas district, which fell vacant after the TMC’s Kajal Sinha succumbed to COVID-19.
At Gosaba seat in South 24 Parganas, TMC MLA Jayanta Naskar also died of COVID-related complications last month.
At Dinhata in Cooch Behar district and Santipur in Nadia district, the winning BJP nominees quit as MLAs as they wanted to retain their parliamentary berths.
Polls were countermanded in Jangipur and Samserganj, both in Murshidabad district, following the death of candidates due to the viral disease.
“As no polling was held in Murshidabad district, there is no need to check the EVMs and VVPATs there,” the officer said.
In a memorandum submitted to the Election Commission on Thursday, the TMC stated that with the decreasing number of coronavirus cases in the state, conditions are conducive for conducting the bypolls with Covid appropriate protocols in place.
The Election Commission said on Friday said that bypoll to the Rajya Sabha seat from West Bengal vacated by Dinesh Trivedi earlier this year will be held on August 9.