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Calcutta HC rejects Trinamool’s petition on West Bengal rural polls stay

Single judge bench had stayed panchayat elections in West Bengal after state poll panel withdrew order to extend date of filing nominations.

kolkata Updated: Apr 13, 2018 18:58 IST
HT Correspondents, Kolkata/Siliguri/Berhampore
West Bengal panchayat election,Calcutta HC,BJP
BJP MPs Babul Supriyo and Roopa Ganguly at a protest against the West Bengal government, in Kolkata. The BJP has accused the ruling Trinamool Congress of massive violence against party workers in the run-up to panchayat polls in the state.(PTI)

The Calcutta high court on Friday rejected the appeal of the ruling Trinamool Congress to quash Thursday’s order stalling the panchayat elections in West Bengal till April 16 and fast-track the hearing in the matter.

The court’s division bench comprising justice Biswanath Samaddar and justice Arindam Mukherjee rejected the appeal by the ruling party’s counsel and member of Parliament Kalyan Banerjee and said that it will hear the case on Monday only after all the parties are served notices.

The division bench also directed the State Election Commission (SEC) to file a petition.

The bench of justice Subrata Talukdar on Thursday suspended the polls till Monday when the state poll watchdog is supposed to submit a report to the court detailing the steps it took to redress opposition complaints on attempts to prevent their candidates from filing nomination.

Justice Talukdar will then take a decision on whether to resume the poll process or ask the poll body to decide on extending the nomination window.

Opposition parties have been alleging since the nomination process began on April 2 that the ruling party’s supporters have indulged in violence and strong-arm tactics to prevent their candidates from filing nominations, an allegation dismissed by chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

The polling is scheduled to take place on May 1, 3 and 5 and the counting on May 8. Six people have died in violence surrounding the rural elections over the past few days.

Experts have said the dates of polling may eventually be changed if the nomination process is extended. There has to be a gap of 21 days from the last date of filing nomination and the first day of polling.

Kalyan Banerjee refused to speak to the media about his next course of action.

Left Front’s Bengal Bandh flops

The six-hour bandh called by the Left Front from 6 am to 12 pm failed to evoke a response on Friday. Life was almost normal in Kolkata and in other districts of the state as administration deployed police force and fielded more buses to keep public life normal.

In the morning, state information technology minister Bratya Basu toured several areas of Kolkata, including the airport and the IT hub at Salt Lake, to find out whether the shutdown had affected the people. He even distributed sweets at a few spots to those who defied the strike and came out.

CPI(M) supporters bring out a rally in Siliguri on Friday. (AFP)

Violence continues unabated

Reports of stray violence were reported from different areas of the state on Friday.

Trinamool workers were accused of vandalising and setting ablaze houses of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) supporters in Beropetia village of Jalpaiguri district. The ruling party’s supporters allegedly threatened the BJP’s candidates to withdraw their nomination.

Jalpaiguri district president of the BJP Shyam Prasad said police refused to take action even though they filed a complaint against local Trinamool panchayat chief Krishan Das.

“Instead the police arrested our workers, Prakash Roy and Samser Ali. One of our local leaders, who was pregnant, was also attacked and beaten up by Trinamool goons,” Prasad said.

Congress vice-president of Murshidabad district unit Humayun Kabir threatened policemen with murder if they remain loyal to the ruling party.

“We will be forced to attack those government officials who would act like agents of the ruling party. If we have to go to jail, then we would rather kill before being imprisoned,” Kabir said at a meeting of party workers on Friday.

The polls are crucial because the Trinamool, which wants a larger role in national politics, wants to retain its hold over the state’s grassroots-level politics, while the BJP, fast emerging as West Bengal’s main Opposition party, is keen to expand its footprint.

First Published: Apr 13, 2018 17:46 IST