Bengal government, Commission dispute heading for legal tangle

Kolkata, March 30 (IANS) The dispute between the West Bengal State Election Commission and state government seemed headed towards a legal fight Saturday with both sides remaining firm on their respective stands on holding rural body (panchayat) polls.

The ruling Trinamool Congress launched a virtual tirade against the panel, while the opposition continued to question the state government’s intention to hold the polls.

While the poll panel, pitching for the deployment of central paramilitary forces, was reportedly consulting lawyers, the state government shot off another letter to the Commission, saying it did not see reason in spending Rs. 40 crore on deploying 800 companies of central paramilitary troopers.

“I hope after receiving our letter the Commission will consider all aspects and start the process of conducting the elections,” said state panchyat minister Subrata Mukhrjee.

The Commission, however, did not rule out knocking on the legal corridor.

“We have received a letter from the state government. We are examining its contents,” Commission secretary Tapas Ray said.

Commission officials said the panel would not send a fresh proposal to the government on the issue.

Mukherjee, however, said the government had no intention to move court on its own. “We are still keeping our faith on the commission. But if the commission goes to court, we will have to take appropriate decisions”.

He argued the state government would be in a position to ask for additional forces from other states through the centre only after the Commission formally notifies the election schedule.

The Mamata Banerjee-led government had earlier announced two phase-poll schedule April 26 and April 30.

Meanwhile, Trinamool’s all-India general secretary Mukul Roy went hammer and tongs at the commission, accusing it of hatching a “grave conspiracy” to delay the polls.

Iterating that any further postponement of the polls would result in it being held under searing heat, Roy said: “The officers of the election commission will be comfortably seated in their air-conditioned chambers. It is the political workers who will have to bear the heat.

“Even if a single person dies because of the heat wave, we will take the body to the Commission and organise protests there.”

On the other hand, Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly Surya Kanta Mishra said the deadlock was a result of lack of “political will” in the ruling Trinamool Congress to resolve the dispute.

Issuing a warning to the Trinamool, he said there should be no interference in the functioning of the State Election Commission which draws its powers from the Constitution.

All India Congress committee general secretary and party’s West Bengal in-charge Shakeel Ahmed wondered why the state government was unwilling to accept recommendations of the Commission to deploy paramilitary forces when all parties, except the Trinamool, supported the idea.

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