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Bengal panchayat polls rescheduled to May 14
May 25 2018, 02:52 | Irvin Gilbert
Panchayat election in West Bengal will be held on a single day on May 14, the State Election Commission (SEC) announced today. The SEC had earlier written to the state government about the need for central forces, something that was mentioned in its deliberations with Bengal governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, and sought from the government a detailed security plan for the panchayat election.
Union minister Babul Supriyo and other party leaders from the state, including Mukul Roy, Rupa Ganguly and Rahul Sinha, hit out at the Mamata Banerjee government. Ramzan starts in mid-May and we can not impose an election on a section of the society during this fasting period.
Keeping the influx of people into the state in mind, Banerjee said the state government would try to seal the borders.
The polling had to be deferred after opposition parties moved courts alleging violence and intimidation by the ruling party during the nomination process.
As per an announcement by the State Election Commission (SEC) on 31 March, the dates for the three-phase polls were 1 May, 3 May and 5 May, with the last date of nomination being 9 April.
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Justice Subrata Talukdar then asked the SEC to extend the deadline for submitting nomination by a day. "We are walking in this rally to save the democratic environment in West Bengal", said CPI-M politburo member and MP Mohammad Selim.
The commission decided on a single-phase polling in view of approaching monsoons and the start of the holy month of Ramzan on 15 May, according to Shandilya.
Available forces are so inadequate that even top IPS officers would have to be detailed to guard polling booths, said Sayantan Basu, general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Angry over the SEC announcement, the opposition parties said the state lacked adequate number of police personnel to provide fool-proof security and alleged the poll panel never discussed the matter with them, despite a direction from the high court. "Unprecedented violence including attacks on the Opposition party candidates and their subsequent murder has surpassed all records of the state", he said. She further warned some of the parties and asked them not to spread "fake news" about Bengal.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee expressed happiness with the schedule.