SC reserves verdict on BJP’s plea on West Bengal panchayat polls
The Supreme Court reserved on Friday its order on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) request to direct the West Bengal election commissioner to accept online nomination papers for the state’s panchayat polls, alleging that its candidates are targeted.
Poll-related violence has claimed two lives in Malda and Bankura districts so far since the beginning of the filing of nominations on April 2, according to police. Besides, scores of people were wounded in clashes between supporters of the ruling Trinamool Congress and the BJP.
The top court bench of justices RK Agarwal and AM Sapre said it will pass an order on April 9, which is the last day to file nomination papers for the rural polls scheduled for May 1, 3 and 5.
The counsel for the West Bengal government opposed the petition, saying no violence was reported in the state. For its part, the Union government said it can send paramilitary forces to ensure violence-free elections.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi requested the court’s intervention to enable BJP candidates to file their nomination papers. “Democracy is being murdered” in the state, he said.
Rohatgi placed before the court data on the number of nomination papers filed in the districts to stress that the Trinamool managed to file more than the BJP and the Congress. “This is because our party workers have not been allowed to approach the designated offices to collect nomination papers,” Rohatgi said.
In response, West Bengal government counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi wondered why the BJP chose to approach the top court directly without going to the state election commission or the Calcutta high court first.
The Calcutta high court, in response to a similar petition filed by state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury, directed the state election commission to file an affidavit by April 16. The next date of hearing is April 20.
The Congress appealed for central forces as it informed the court about violence during the process to file nomination papers. Paramilitary forces were first deployed for West Bengal rural elections in 2013.
At least two prominent leaders came under attack, allegedly from the ruling party in the West Bengal districts on Friday, the fifth day of filing of nomination papers.
Eight-time Lok Sabha MP and CPI(M) leader Basudeb Acharya was hit on the head in Purulia district, the party said. The BJP alleged that its state unit general secretary Raju Banerjee was dragged out of his vehicle in Bankura and assaulted in front of the district magistrate’s office.