When a table, ceiling fan, cycle are banned near Bengal poll booths

When a table, ceiling fan, cycle are banned near Bengal poll booths

 The reason - they are among the dozens of poll symbols being used by contestants.
Other items of daily use such as candle, battery, torch, lantern, cup and saucer, bread, cake, cycle, hat, etc., are being used as election insignia. Voters or even the election officials are not permitted to use any of these items within 200 metres of the polling stations.

"According to election guidelines, nobody can carry anything reserved for election symbols along with him/her within 200 metres of the polling stations on polling day. The use of such an article might give publicity to the party which is using that as its election symbol. So  anybody carrying such a thing stands the risk of being accused of violating the EC's model code of conduct (MCC)," said West Bengal Joint Chief Electoral Officer Dibyendu Sarkar.

Six symbols - elephant, lotus, ears of corn and sickle, hammer sickle and star, hand and clock - are reserved for six national parties, while the lion, flowers and grass and spade and stoker are reserved for three state parties, according to sources in the state Chief Electoral Officer's office. Besides these, there are 53 free symbols which are allotted to the candidates of non-registered parties or independent nominees.

"Considering the number of independent candidates or nominees of non-registered parties contesting from an assembly seat, free symbols are allotted to them. In that case the symbols for independent candidates may differ in different constituencies.

Subsequently the number and variety of election symbols fixed in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) differ from constituency to constituency," said Sarkar. So in case a candle, torch light, lantern, table and clock are part of the election symbols in that constituency, the poll officials cannot use them inside the polling stations on election day, according to an EC directive.

Among the 53 free symbols, most of the independent candidates including those of the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) and the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL) were allotted candle, table, lantern, cup and saucer, battery torch and ceiling fan. But a table is a must-have furniture in all booths, while the lantern, battery torch and candle are also used by polling officials for light. All polling booths have been provided with lanterns since 1952, said a senior election official.

The EC has already issued a circular asking polling officials to make alternative arrangements for lanterns for lighting. The instruction, in fact, applies to all objects in the booths that may look like symbols, said Additional Chief Electoral Officer N.K. Sahana.

"The officers have been asked to either cover or remove the objects that may be similar to the symbols. As we cannot make any alternative arrangement for table, officials have been asked to cover it up in the booths where it is reserved as election symbols," said Sarkar.

The use of free symbols has created confusion among voters in three constituencies of Darjeeling Hills. In the Darjeeling and Kalimpong constituencies of Darjeeling district, GJM candidates were allotted the table as symbol while arch rivals ABGL got the candle. But in the Kurseong constituency the GJM is contesting with the candle symbol and the ABGL with the table symbol.

West Bengal is holding six-phase assembly polls from April 18 to May 10 across 70,124 booths.