The feuding West Bengal government and the State Election Commission (SEC) are apparently heading for a showdown.
On Monday, after a long legal wrangling, the SEC formally announced the dates for the panchayat elections and set the poll process rolling. Nine districts go to the hustings on July 2. The second and third phases will be held July 6 and July 9.
But the Mamata Banerjee government, which had been fighting tooth and nail over the security arrangements, is yet to budge. The state had contended that there was no need to deploy central forces, which according to the SEC is mandatory for free and fair polls.
Sources in the commission said if the state fails to come up with details of security arrangements by Wednesday, they will be left with two options: moving Calcutta high court again or use Section 137 (2) of the West Bengal Panchayat Elections Act, 2003.
Under the act, the commission can issue any order to do away with the difficulties that come in the way of conducting elections.
Nomination for the first phase begins on Wednesday. Postponing the polls would result in a constitutional crisis and violate court orders.
On May 14, the Calcutta high court had asked the state and the SEC to complete the poll process by July 15.
"We are exploring all options," said state election commissioner Mira Pande.
In the wake of last week's Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh, security becomes paramount for the Maoist-hit districts of West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura, which go to polls in the first phase.