KOLKATA: The Congress in West Bengal is divided on the issue of whether to support Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's call to return to ballot papers in panchayat and municipal polls with one section apprehensive that the ruling TMC might rig the elections.
A majority of the state Congress leadership including MLAs has openly expressed its opposition on the issue.
However, the section which is in minority feels that the party should side with the TMC on the issue to corner BJP in the state.
The central Congress leadership has time and again raised questions over the functioning of EVMs during polls.
"The most important thing in Bengal is free and fair elections. Since the TMC came to power, elections in Bengal have never been held in a free and fair manner. The TMC has never allowed polls to be held properly.
"If ballot papers are now used, the TMC would rig the entire elections as it did during the pancahyat polls," state Congress president Somen Mitra said on Saturday.
On the issue of EVMs, he said there have been apprehensions about their functioning.
"But it does not mean that we would want to return to ballots entirely in the days to come.
"At first, the state government should ensure free and fair elections and then talk about returning to ballot papers," he said.
Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Chowdhury criticised Banerjee and said Bengal has not forgotten what the TMC has done during last Lok Sabha polls.
"We have not forgotten that she (Mamata Banerjee) had rigged the last panchayat polls in the state and more than 35 per cent seats were won uncontested," he told PTI.
Chowdhury was referring to the 2018 panchayat polls in the state, which witnessed widespread violence and allegations of malpractice.
The view of the Congress was echoed by CPI(M) which too felt the return of ballots would only help the TMC to "loot" the elections.
"The return of ballots would only help TMC to loot the polls in days to come.
We want elections to be held in a free and fair manner," CPI(M) central committee member Sujan Chakraborty said.