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Hint of Bengal early poll

Calcutta, July 21: The voting machines could soon beep again in Bengal ' sooner than you think.

Sources in the ruling CPM today said the leadership is in favour of advancing next year’s Assembly elections scheduled in May and hit the turf along with Bihar or sometime later this winter to take advantage of the division in Opposition ranks.

“At this point, it cannot be said for certain that Assembly elections in Bengal are going to be advanced because a lot will depend on the Election Commission. But we are trying to do something in that direction,” said a source close to state CPM secretary Anil Biswas.

“Let’s see how things work out,” the source added.

As far as Biswas is concerned, an early election can prevent the fragmented Opposition from coming together.

“The successes in the last parliamentary or the June civic elections do not mask the fact that Opposition parties could make things difficult if they stayed together,” a CPM official said.

A section of the CPM leadership favours elections in early 2006. These leaders feel there is no point holding elections between January and April because of the Madhyamik and Higher Secondary examinations.

After April, advancing the elections does not make much sense, they say.

Biswas is believed to have pointed out to the leadership that polls can be held only between late October and early January, preferably November.

The sources said the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government had sounded the poll panel with a few early election scenarios.

The commission felt that if elections were advanced, they should not be held between January and May unless other election-bound states also agree to bring theirs forward.

The CPM and the state government are, however, moving forward on the assumption that the poll panel would green-light the proposal for early elections. This is evident from the way bureaucrats and police officers are being shuffled across the state.

Senior IPS officers, known for their “efficiency”, especially during elections, have been either posted in key districts or brought to Calcutta with the injunction “expect an early election”.

According to the sources, a shuffle of officers-in-charge of police stations in Calcutta and elsewhere is coming up.

“All crucial postings/transfers can be said to have been completed,” a senior bureaucrat said. “At Writers’, the buzz is election. Several election-related wheels are in motion.”

Biswas is expected to start a full-fledged discussion tomorrow, after which the subject may be taken up with the national leadership when the politburo meets in Delhi towards the end of this month.

Two prominent politburo members, Brinda Karat and Sitaram Yechury, are also believed to be in favour of early polls.

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