The impasse over panchayat polls in the state has come as a boon for the opposition Congress and BJP, as they are in the process of gaining maximum mileage out of the likely extension of the polls.
Opposition parties feel the delay would serve as a breather and provide them more time to reach out to the people, conduct meetings with party workers, finalise renewed strategies and even target the ruling Trinamool Congress as the one responsible for delaying the polls.
With a legal battle almost inevitable as the state election commission (SEC) officials conceded on Saturday and the government hardening its stance about its preparedness to slog it out in court if the situation so arises; the panchayat polls in all probability stands postponed for an indefinite time.
“Panchayat polls are akin to a major festival in rural Bengal. We would surely reach out to the people and explain who are actually responsible for deferment of the polls,” Union minister of state for railways and Behrampore MP Adhir Chowdhury said. “The ruling party is trying to scuttle the panchayat polls and intending to appoint administrators to the panchayats, so it can run them at will. Already, the administration in the panchayats is in a shambles, with a number of block development officers transferred to make way for those loyal to Trinamool,” he added.
BJP state president Rahul Sinha conceded that had the polls been held on time, a significant part of the proposed party meetings wouldn’t have materialised. He said the extension of the polls has allowed the party more time for preparations and recalibrate its strategy against the Trinamool Congress and other opponents. “We have a number of meetings lined up in every district. Had the polls been held in April or May, some meetings in north Bengal wouldn’t have happened. The extension has given us more time to reach out to the people and conduct smaller street corner meetings that are more effective for communicating with voters,” Sinha said.
Even Left Front leaders privately admit that the extension has given them scope to set their house in order, especially at a time when party cadres are at the receiving end of attacks and intimidation from Trinamool workers. “We could not find candidates for more than 10,000 panchayat seats. Also, we had been facing some troubles in thousands of seats reserved for women. The extension of the polls would give us more time to look for candidates in these seats,” a CPI(M) leader said.
However CPI(M) leaders fought shy of owning up to the same in public and denied gaining any extra mileage out of the likely postponement of the polls. They claimed they are prepared for polls anytime.
The SEC is expected to clear its stand on the future course of action on Monday and all opposition parties are keenly tracking the developments too. SEC officials hinted they might approach the court on Tuesday to clear the impasse on conducting panchayat polls in the state.