Bengal election panel seeks changes in poll schedule

Kolkata, May 18 (IANS) The West Bengal State Election Commission Saturday wrote to the state government seeking a change in the schedule for the panchayat polls and the bunching of districts in each phase.

The state government had issued a notification Friday proposing three-phase polls. Nine districts are to go to the hustings July 2, and four each July 6 and July 10.

The SEC’s latter has sought a regrouping of districts – six in phase one, five in phase two and the remaining six in the final leg.

Following the opposition seeking change of date for the third phase which clashes with the Rathayatra festival, the panel has sought shifting of the polls in the third stage to another day.

Responding to the letter, Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee said the third phase may be advanced by a day to July 9.

“We will discuss the matter with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and inform of our decision by tomorrow (Sunday),” Mukherjee said.

However, it seems that the change sought by the SEC on clubbing of districts in each phase could turn out to be thorny issue with the state government so far reluctant to carry out any changes.

The lead-up to the polls has been marred by constant friction between the Banerjee government and the SEC, as both claimed primacy in announcing the schedule.

After the state government announced two-phase polls, the SEC moved the Calcutta High Court demanding scrapping of two sections in the state Panchayat Election Act, which empowers the state government to decide on the schedule.

Justice Biswanath Sommader upheld the primacy of the SEC and said it would announce the election timetable. But after the state government moved an appeal to the division bench, the court ordered the panchayat polls to be concluded in three phases by July 15, and directed the state government to notify the dates and schedule.

Meanwhile Governor M.K. Narayanan expressed hope that the impasse between the election panel and the State government will be sorted out.

“The matter is now between the state government and the State Election Commission. I think it will be sorted out,” he said.

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