In what is seen as a clash of egos between Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and chief election commissioner Mira Pandey, their battle over panchayat poll dates is likely to head for the court.
The state election commission (SEC) wants polling to take place in at least three phases — on April 28, May 2 and May 6 — under the surveillance of central paramilitary forces.
But the CM doesn’t want it to be extended beyond two phases — April 24 and April 27. The state had earlier demanded a single-phase election.
“It seems that things are going in the direction where it would be left for the court to decide,” said former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee.
The West Bengal Panchayat Elections Act says the state must “consult” the SEC to decide the polling schedule.
“The law, however, doesn’t mention as to whose decision prevails,” said a senior SEC official.
“The tussle took off from a position where the law ended,” said former West Bengal speaker Hasim Abdul Halim.
A senior panchayat department officer said following a discussion with the advocate general, the CM had been advised not to decide the schedule unilaterally, as the SEC could then seek a judicial review.
“This (judicial review) could lead to embarrassment for the administration as such orders have earlier gone in favour of the SEC,” the officer added.