The Trinamool Congress has done it again.
To put not only the Congress, but also the state election commission — a constitutional body — on the back foot, the West Bengal government has begun a courtroom duel with the commission.
The issue: The authority to announce the panchayat election dates and to decide on the logistics, including security arrangements.
The state government wants its own forces to handle the polls, while the commission insists on having central forces around.
The aim: To establish that the state government, and not the commission, is the boss when it comes to holding elections.
The argument: The West Bengal Panchayat Elections Act 2003, allows it to announce the dates “in consultation” with the state commission. Besides, it was unnecessary to spend around Rs.400 crore on central forces, as the law and order situation in Bengal is “satisfactory”.
The reasons, however, could range from TMC chief Mamata Banerjee’s rush to complete the ouster of the Left Front from the state before the Lok Sabha polls to setting a precedent for all the non-UPA state governments.
“Our party is ready for the polls. We wanted it done in February. But the commission, for unknown reasons, thwarted it. We announced April 26 and 30 as poll dates, but the commission went to court,” complained TMC leader Mukul Roy at a recent rally.
Banerjee is not spearheading the attack against the commission. She is using her old faithful, Roy, instead to defend her position and attack state election commissioner Meera Pandey for allegedly colluding with the CPI(M), among other things.
But the areas the opposition thinks will experience large-scale rigging are dominated by the Congress, especially north Bengal where MoS, railway, Adhir Chowdhury and MoS, urban development, Deepa Dasmunsi enjoy huge support bases.
Pradip Bhattacharya, state Congress president, said, “We fear that there will be violence as the TMC would try and capture booths.”
But Banerjee’s move seems to have floundered, at least for now. Delaying the polls by getting into a scuffle with Pandey – which at times became too personal – may allow the commission to prove its supremacy in the high court.