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Bengal panchayat polls rescheduled to May 14


Press Trust of India Kolkata
The West Bengal panchayat election will be held in a single-phase on May 14, instead of the three-phase polling, scheduled for May 1, 3 and 5 earlier, the State Election Commission announced it here today.
"The panchayat election will be held in one phase on May 14. Any re-poll, if needed, will be held on May 16. The date of counting will be notified later," SEC Secretary Nilanjan Shandilya told reporters.
Asked if a foolproof security arrangements would be possible in case of a single-phase poll schedule, Shandilya said the poll panel has requested the state government to make sufficient security arrangements to ensure a free and fair poll.
The SEC secretary, however, evaded a question on how will the state police be able to provide security if the election is held in a single phase in 58,467 polling booths spread across the state.
"The state will look into the security arrangements," he said, while declining to take questions on the opposition parties demand for deployment of central forces in the state for free and fair poll.
Asked why the SEC scheduled a single-phase polling, Shandilya said there are many reasons including the month of Ramzan.
Various Muslim organisations yesterday had met the SEC and urged it not to hold the polls during the month of Ramzan beginning May 16/17, as Muslims might find it difficult to take part in the polling process amid the day-long fasting.
According to the West Bengal Panchayat Act, 2003, there has to be a gap of at least 21 days between the last date of filing of nominations and the date of polling.
According to this rule, the election cannot be held before May 14.
The nomination filing process for the panchayat poll was marred by violence and clashes between the ruling Trinamool Congress and opposition parties workers in the state, resulting in loss of a few lives.
The Calcutta High Court had on April 20 directed the SEC to reschedule the dates for the panchayat polls.
The nomination process for the panchayat polls had ended on April 9, but it was extended by a day by the SEC the same evening following a Supreme Court court order.
The West Bengal government and the TMC had objected to the nomination date extension by the SEC, which had cited a Supreme Court direction to "allay the apprehensions of aspiring candidates" in its notification which had extended the nomination deadline by a day.
The notification, which had referred to the apex court order, however, was withdrawn by the SEC on April 10 morning.
This led BJP to move the Supreme Court on April 11 objecting to the recall of deadline extension, but it was asked to approach the high court with its grievances.
The BJP subsequently moved the high court challenging the rollback of extended deadline, and Justice Subrata Talukdar stayed the election process on April 12.
Apart from the BJP, the CPI(M) and the PDS, the Congress too had moved the high court separately challenging the SEC's decision to recall the nomination deadline extension.
The SEC and TMC had challenged the petitions claiming they were not maintainable before the high court as the election process has started.
Holding the petitions challenging the cancellation of notification as maintainable, Justice Talukdar, however, had asked the SEC to issue fresh notification extending the date for filing nominations.
On the high court order, the SEC had announced April 23 as the extended date for filing nominations for the three-tier rural election.

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First Published: Apr 26 2018 | 9:25 PM IST

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