Bengal panel, government to ‘contest’ panchayat polls in court (Roundup)

Kolkata, April 1 (IANS) The standoff between the West Bengal government and the State Election Commission over conducting the upcoming panchayat polls turned into a legal battle with the commission moving the Calcutta High Court Monday, seeking rejection of the rural body election date notified by the government.

The Trinamool Congress government said it would contest the commission in the court, saying it was “strong enough” to fight the legal battle.

After days of stalemate, the commission Monday morning moved the Calcutta High Court, seeking rejection of the panchayat election date notified by the state government.

The commission approached the court of Justice Biswanath Samaddar, who directed counsel L.C. Bihani to get the petition listed before it could be taken up.

The Mamata Banerjee-led government in West Bengal has been engaged in a war of words and letters with the election panel over the scheduling of the dates and deployment of central paramilitary forces.

On March 22, the government had announced two-phased polls to be held April 26 and April 30, under the supervision of the state police personnel.

This ran counter to the commission’s suggestion of a three-stage poll, with deployment of central paramilitary troopers.

The commission has been asking for 800 companies of central paramilitary troopers, but the government has indicated its willingness to only rope in police personnel from neighbouring states.

As the ongoing dispute went to court, state panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee said his government would contest the commission in the court.

“They (the commission) did not appeal for a discussion with us but directly moved the High Court. We got the copy of the petition. We are contesting it,” Mukherjee told reporters at the state secretariat.

“We are strong enough to fight this legal battle. Legally, the government is in a good position,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Left Front as well as the Congress took a dig at the Banerjee government for the stalemate over rural polls in 17 districts of the state.

The Left Front accused Banerjee’s regime of hatching a conspiracy to stall the elections. It alleged that state Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee deliberately did not abide by the laws as a part of the conspiracy.

“Jurisdiction is amply explained through different provisos that the time frame (of rural body polls) can be announced by the government, but the phase cannot be notified or announced by it. It is definitely known to the minister,” state Left Front chairman Biman Bose told a media conference here.

“When knowingly they are adopting wrong things as per laws and regulations, this is definitely motivated to stall the upcoming elections,” said Bose, also the state Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) secretary.

He alleged that the ruling Trinamool Congress did not want to hold the polls now as the party was going through several internal conflicts.

The Congress also alleged that the Trinamool Congress regime was planning to delay the polls as it feared unfavourable results.

“They (the government) have a plan not to allow other parties to file nominations for the upcoming panchayat polls. The Trinamool Congress is trying to delay the rural body elections because the results may go against the party,” state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya said.

The Congress alleged that Trinamool Congress cadres were threatening its workers in the districts so that they do not submit nomination papers.

Bhattacharya demanded police deployment during nomination filling at the sub-divisional offices (SDOs) as well as block development offices (BDOs).

A Left Front delegation met Governor M.K. Narayanan Monday evening and sought his intervention to end the standoff between the state government and State Election Commission.

The Front is also planning to hold a sit-in agitation Tuesday evening in Kolkata to protest the Banerjee government’s stand on the elections.

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