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Single-phase polling in West Bengal panchayat elections challenged in HC

Opposition parties alleged state Election Commission fixed the polling day without any consultation with political parties.

india Updated: Apr 28, 2018 19:45 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
West Bengal,West Bengal rural polls,Panchayat polls
A view of the Calcutta high court in Kolkata.(HT File Photo)

Opposition parties have petitioned the Calcutta high court challenging the single-phase polling notified by the state Election Commission.

The court has admitted the case and hearing will take place on April 30.

The court has ordered a notice to be served to the political parties who might be interested in the matter.

It will be heard by justice Subrata Talukdar, who earlier ordered the SEC to allow filing of nomination for an additional day that was held on April 23.

On Thursday evening, the state poll panel issued a notification to hold the elections on May 14, triggering allegations from different parties that it will lead to inadequate security arrangements that, in turn, will lead to violence by ruling Trinamool Congress supporters.

CPI(M) central committee member Robin Deb alleged SEC fixed the polling day without any consultation with political parties.“We will also raise objections on the single-phase schedule. The same commissioner decided on a three-phase schedule in the notification issued on March 31. We will also highlight the severe shortage of security forces for polling day,” said Deb.

“We were waiting to discuss with the election commissioner. But he was busy discussing the date only with the government. The SEC offered no reason why it reduced the number of polling from three days to one. It would require a number of security personnel far more than what the administration has at its disposal,” said PDS general secretary Samir Putatunda.

The SEC has called an all-party meeting on Saturday afternoon to discuss the security arrangements.

“We will decide to go to court after that meeting with the election commissioner,” said Sayantan Basu, general secretary Bengal unit of BJP.

On Friday, Congress approached a division bench of the court demanding further extension of nomination.

“Each polling premise will have coverage by armed police. We have adequate forces,” DGP Surajit Kar Purakayastha told the media.

Government officials claimed they are planning to utilise a part of the 23,000 policemen available with Kolkata Police to boost the 58,000 with Bengal Police (of whom 46,000 carry firearms and 12,000 carry canes).

The government will also try to enlist the services of excise department and even armed prison staff. Even forest department personnel may be deployed.

“If necessary we may also request some other state for police forces,

“ said a senior bureaucrat requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

“The government has adequate security arrangements to ensure peaceful polls,” claimed panchayat affairs & rural development minister Subrata Mukherjee.

First Published: Apr 27, 2018 23:50 IST