The ruling Trinamool Congress on Sunday claimed that the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal will inconvenience people during Ramzan and the summer months, PTI reported. The Election Commission had earlier announced that elections in the state will be held over seven phases from April 11 to May 19.

“We have full faith in the Election Commission,” Trinamool leader and Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim told reporters in the state capital. “The central government has targeted West Bengal in order to ensure that minority community people can’t come out to vote in large numbers due to fasting in the Ramzan month.”

In the press conference on Sunday, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said the poll panel had taken into account exams as well as festivals while deciding on the election schedule.

Hakim claimed the Centre had misled the Election Commission about the law and order situation in the state. “The central government has intentionally misled the Election Commission with wrong inputs about the law and order situation in the state,” he said. “We are not afraid of a seven-phase election. The people of Bengal are with the TMC and [Chief Minister] Mamata Banerjee.”

Hakim said Banerjee will campaign in various states in the run-up to the elections. She has convened a core committee meeting on Tuesday, where she is likely to finalise her party candidates. “We will defeat the Narendra Modi government in the elections and the country will have a new pro-people government at the Centre,” he added.

Agreeing with Hakim’s observations, Samajwadi Party Maharashtra President Abu Asim Azmi said fewer Muslims may be interested in voting during the month of Ramzan, News18 reported. “I am not blaming the Election Commission, but the secular votes will reduce and it will benefit the BJP,” he said. “If the Uttar Pradesh elections were held during Kumbh, you would have seen the difference.”

However, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s All India Minority Morcha Secretary Arshad Alam said it was unnecessary for political parties to drag Ramzan into elections, News18 reported. “It’s not written anywhere in Islam that one has to take rest in air-conditioned rooms while fasting during Ramzan,” he said. “A true Muslim will keep ‘roza’ during Ramzan and will also perform his/her normal duties towards society and family.”

Opposition parties welcome decision

The Opposition parties of the state welcomed the staggered polls and said it reflected the “deteriorating” law and order situation under the Trinamool government.

“The seven-phase election reflects the law and order situation in the state... how people were stopped from exercising their democratic rights,” said Communist Party of India (Marxist) politburo member Mohammed Salim, referring to the violence during the panchayat polls in the state last year. “We hope that the polling will be held in a free and fair manner and the EC will be impartial, proactive and responsive.”

Welcoming the decision, BJP National Secretary Rahul Sinha said the Trinamool was indulging in communal politics by claiming the multiple phases would cause inconvenience to those from the minority community, The Indian Express reported. “This is a clear indication that a state of lawlessness prevails in the state and polls are not being held peacefully,” he said. “The election will be held with the help of the central armed forces.”

Sinha claimed the ruling party in the state wanted to polarise voters by talking about Ramzan. “Last year, the panchayat polls were also held during the Ramzan month,” he said. “I will appeal to the people not to support this kind of politics.”