Uttarakhand chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat’s resignation citing the improbability of getting elected in a by-poll within the stipulated time due to the situation over the pandemic had brought all focus on West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, another non-elected chief minister who must win a by-poll within next four months.
Rawat, a Lok Sabha MP who was sworn-in after chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat resigned on March 10, had another two months to get elected. Banerjee, who lost the assembly election from Nandigram constituency to her one-time confidante Suvendu Adhikari on his home turf, has to get elected by November 5 to continue as the chief minister.
"I have submitted my resignation to the Governor. Given the constitutional crisis, I felt it was right for me to resign," Rawat told reporters on Saturday. By constitutional crisis, he meant the uncertainty over conduction of the by-polls within the remaining two months.
Soon after, the BJP’s national secretary, West Bengal’s Anupam Hazra, wrote on Facebook, “Uttarakhand CM Rawat was a non-MLA chief minister. But he resigned like a gentleman as conduction of the by-poll was not possible due to the Covid-19 situation? But we can’t expect such a gesture from everyone.”
Hazra did not name any but his target was understandably the Bengal chief minister.
The state government has over the past month has on several occasions demanded that the Bengal by-elections be held at the earliest. On June 23, Banerjee said, “I have heard the election commission would not initiate the by-elections until getting the prime minister’s nod. Therefore, I am requesting the prime minister to please clear the by-polls here.”
Meanwhile, on July 1, the state government received a letter from the election commission of India (ECI), in which the poll panel asked the state government if it would be possible to hold the by-elections to the two vacant Rajya Sabha seats. The state, while saying they did not have a problem with conducting the Rajya Sabha by-polls, also urged the ECI to consider conducting the assembly by-elections at the earliest because the second wave of the pandemic had come under control.
The TMC on Sunday rubbished any similarity between the situation in Uttarakhand and West Bengal. The party’s Rajya Sabha chief whip and national spokesperson Sukhendu Sekhar Roy said, “Uttarakahd is going to get the third chief minister in quick successions due to the internal trouble in the BJP and the fact that the two chief ministers who had to resign had created adverse public impact with many of their public statement. The BJP is simply trying to use the Covid-19 to cover-up their internal trouble ahead of the state assembly elections due next year.”
Roy said that Tirath still had two months to get elected and citing pandemic to tell of the improbability of conducting in the elections in the next two months was “a lame excuse.”
“The ECI must conduct the assembly by-elections at the earliest so that the people from those constituencies do not remain unrepresented for longer than stipulated in the Constitution. The bogey of Covid-19 cannot be used now because the situation is better than what it was when the assembly general elections were held in eight phases during the peak of the second wave,” said Roy.
At present, assembly by-election is due in seven seats and Rajya Sabha by-election in two seats. Mamata Banerjee has twice written to the prime minister, urging him to clear the proceeding for the conduction of the by-polls in the state, citing that the situation over the pandemic in the second wave had come under control in West Bengal.
By-polls in three assembly constituencies are to be held due to the resignation of elected members. Of them, two BJP Lok Sabha MPs who contested assembly elections and won have resigned from the assembly. Mamata Banerjee is expected to contest from her home turf, Bhawanipur and the local MLA, agriculture minister Sobhandeb Chatterjee has already resigned. He is slated to contest from Khardah, where the TMC’s winner passed away even before the results were announced. Another TMC MLA died at the end of June.
Elections in two more seats are due because the polls were postponed following the deaths of candidates. All these deaths are due to Covid-19.
The state also has elections in more than 100 civic bodies due for more than a year. The chief minister recently said that the state will give clearance to the civic elections after the assembly by-polls have been conducted.