While on the one hand the Mamata Banerjee administration locked horns with the State Election Commission at Calcutta High Court, her Trinamool Congress took the protests against the SEC to the streets. Left Front leaders, too, held agitations in the city and flayed the state for deliberately deferring the rural elections.
Calcutta High Court, on Tuesday, began hearing the SEC’s petition challenging the constitutional validity of the state’s notification for conducting the panchayat elections on April 26 and April 30. The judge, however, adjourned the hearing until April 4.
SEC advocate, Samaraditya Pal, said the state had not fulfilled certain legal provisions while notifying the polls and had not given a clear response to the SEC’s request for 800 companies of paramilitary forces.
“The SEC was surprised that the state had not given a satisfactory reply. Without supplying the details of forces, the state only said it had sufficient forces for the election and, if necessary, would requisition forces from neighbouring states,” Pal said.
The SEC’s petition, filed through advocate Amrita Pandey, also challenged the validity of Section 42 of the West Bengal Panchayat Elections Act, 2003, which empowered the state government to notify the rural election. “This provision is in violation of the Constitution, which guarantees the supremacy of the Election Commission over the state in matters of holding elections,” Pandey said.
The CPI(M) also moved court through advocate Bikash Bhattacharya and obtained permission to add itself as a party to the case in support of the SEC.
Meanwhile, almost all the Trinamool’s senior leaders, ministers and district party heads attended a show of strength at the Metro Channel in the heart of the city on Tuesday, where the ruling party launched a scathing attack against the commission. The Left Front also held a public rally at Rani Rashmoni Avenue, barely a stone’s throw away from the Trinamool’s dais.
With senior leaders of the ruling party targeting the SEC and hitting the streets, the SEC’s office at Rawdon Street was blanketed in tight security since Tuesday morning. Senior police officials said that the arrangement was ‘a precautionary measure’. “There was apprehension that an agitation could be staged in front of the commission’s office, or that Trinamool workers could try to break in,” a senior police official said.