Parties urge EC to relax poll code in Bengal

Kolkata, Mar 15 (IANS) Citing insufficient time for campaigning before the first phase of polling begins in West Bengal, political parties have requested the Election Commission (EC) to soften the stringent model code of conduct, a senior election official said Tuesday.

‘As per notification, the political parties are prevented to use loud-speakers during election campaigns three days prior to the start of board examinations till the completion of the examination. The board examination will end April 13 and the date for first phase of polling is April 18. As the parties will have to complete their campaign by April 16, they have requested us to soften the norms,’ said West Bengal Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta.

‘The parties are allowed to use loud-speakers between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. But they have requested us to extend the time till 11 p.m. and to allow them to use loud-speakers from April 8 in the constituencies scheduled to go to polls on April 18,’ said Gupta.

‘We will forward their suggestion to the EC in Delhi and further details will be conveyed to the political parties,’ he said after holding an all-party meeting with the officials of the West Bengal Pollution Control Board.

‘The EC also lays down instructions that the candidates who have been show-caused for violating the code of conduct will have to file their replies within 24 hours,’ said Gupta.

Besides, the state finance secretary has been asked to submit a certificate that no government orders would be issued on the files allegedly signed by the finance minister March 1 after announcement of the poll dates, he said.

‘I have informed the state chief secretary regarding this and the certificate will be forwarded to the EC,’ said Gupta.

Earlier, a complaint was lodged against Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta that he had signed hundreds of files even after the announcement of the election dates.

The EC had asked the state government to enquire into the matter and submit a detailed report and the chief secretary accordingly submitted a report to the poll panel.