Three-phased panchayat polls in West Bengal on May 1, 3 and 5
The West Bengal election commission announced on Saturday three-phased panchayat polls in the state on May 1, 3 and 5, which assumes significance as these are likely to test the ruling Trinamool Congress and a resurgent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the 2019 general elections.
On May 1, polling will be held in 12 districts, while two districts will vote on May 3, state election commissioner AK Singh told reporters. In the third phase, voting will be held in six districts.
There will be no panchayat polls in Darjeeling and Kalimpong, the troubled northern districts trying to get back on their feet after months of unrest over an old demand for a separate Gorkhaland state to be carved out of the tea-growing hill region.
The rural polls come at a time state chief minister Mamata Banerjee is trying to unite opposition parties to take on the BJP in the 2019 parliamentary polls. She is seen as key player in a possible grouping of non-BJP political parties ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha elections after she recently met a host of leaders, including those from the Shiv Sena, Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.
For its part, the BJP is trying to gain ground in West Bengal, a state where it hopes to do well after an emphatic victory in Tripura, where the party ousted the Left Front government of 25 years in this year’s assembly polls.
According to the West Bengal election commissioner, new schemes for panchayat areas cannot be announced or inaugurated since the model code of conduct comes into effect from Saturday. Neither can foundation stones for any new projects be laid in these areas. Ongoing projects can continue.
“In case of natural disasters, permission for starting new work or distribution of materials will be taken up by district authorities or from the state election commission. No minister or ministry-ranked officials can use pilot car with or without beacon light unless there is security threat assessed by appropriate police officers,” Singh said.
An estimated 50 million voters are eligible to vote in these elections to gram panchayats, panchayat samitis and zilla parishads.
Elections will be held in 48,751 seats in 3,358 gram panchayats, 9,240 seats in 341 panchayat samitis and 825 seats in 20 zilla parishads. There will be 57,233 booths spread across the 20 districts.
The districts voting in the first phase are Nadia, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, East Burdwan, West Burdwan, Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, West Midnapore and East Midnapore.
On May 3, polling will be held in Murshidabad and Birbhum districts, while in the third phase on May 5 is scheduled for Coochbehar, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Malda districts, Singh said.
Repolling, if required, for the first phase will be held on May 3; for the second phase on May 5 and for the third phase on May 7.
Notification for the election will be issued on Saturday, while the last date for filing nominations is April 9. The date of scrutiny of papers is April 11 and the last date for withdrawal of candidature is April 16.
Votes will be counted on May 8, Singh said, and the election process will have to be completed by May 15.
Earlier this week, the state election commissioner met representatives of political parties and discussed preparations for the panchayat polls.