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7-phase WB polls: TMC claims Centre misled EC; Oppn welcomes prolonged schedule

7-phase WB polls: TMC claims Centre misled EC; Oppn welcomes prolonged schedule

(Eds: With more quotes) Kolkata, Mar 10 (PTI) The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) Sunday took exception to the seven-phase Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal and alleged the central government had "misled" the Election Commission about the law and order situation in the state. The opposition parties of the state, however, welcomed the seven-phase polls saying it reflects the "deteriorating" law and order situation under TMC rule. Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal will begin on April 11 and polling would be held over seven phases through May 19, followed by counting of votes for all seats on May 23, the Election Commission announced on Sunday. "The central government has intentionally misled the Election Commission with wrong inputs about the law and order situation in the state," senior TMC leader and Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim told reporters. Such a prolonged polling process will put a lot of pressure on the people because of the month of Ramzan and the summer in April and May, he said. "We have full faith in the Election Commission. 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. "We are not afraid of a seven-phase election. The people of Bengal are with the TMC and Mamata Banerjee," Hakim said. Hakim said TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will campaign in various states. "We will defeat the Narendra Modi government in the elections and the country will have a new pro-people government at the Centre," he said. Banerjee, a prime mover of the anti-BJP front, in January had organised a mega opposition rally of 23 parties at Kolkata's Brigade Parade Ground and had given the call to defeat the Modi government. CPI(M) politburo member Mohammed Salim said, "The seven-phase election reflects the law and order situation in the state... how people were stopped from exercising their democratic rights." He was referring to the violence that took place 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," Salim said. The state units of BJP and the Congress too welcomed the Lok Sabha polls. "It shows the kind of law and order (situation) now prevailing in West Bengal," BJP leader Mukul Roy said. West Bengal Congress president Somen Mitra also echoed the views of the CPI(M) and the BJP. PTI PNT NN INDIND