Wednesday, March 27, 2013



              Kolkata, Mar 26 : Rejecting the State Election Commission's recommendation, West Bengal government today stuck to its notification of holding the panchayat poll in two phases next month but effected a change in schedule apparently to keep Congress happy.

                "The panchayat election will be held in two phases on April 26 and 30 but the poll schedule has been changed," Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee told reporters.

                Asked whether the state government had bowed to the Commission by rescheduling the polls, he said "you can interpret it in your own way. What we have done is to avoid a confrontation."

                Mukherjee, who had an hour-long meeting with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, said that instead of the earlier schedule, election in six districts -- Malda, Murshidabad, North and South Dinajpur, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar would be held simultaneously on April 30.

                Earlier, Congress strongholds of Malda, Murshidabad and North Dinajpur were scheduled to go to the polls on April 30.

      Congress had earlier wondered why only Malda, Murshidabad and North Dinajpur had been chosen to have the polls in the second phase on April 30 and not other areas.

                Election in 11 South Bengal districts would be held in the first phase on April 26.

                Mukerjee took a dig at the SEC which had written an eleven-page letter to the state government on various aspects of the poll including law and order, said "Ten and half pages of that letter is irrelevant. It was as if written by a school boy."

                On Election Commissioner Mira Pandey's meeting with Governor M K Narayanan during the day, he said "she has the right. She can go to the President of India. We have done everything according to (West Bengal Panchayat Election) Act, 2003. We also exchanged letters with the Commission several times."

                Mukherjee rejected the SEC's recommendation of deploying central forces said police would be requisitioned from other states for the polls.

                He said the state government wanted a free, fair, peaceful and demo cratic polls.

                The chief minister, when asked whether the controversyhas ended, replied "yes." Rejecting the charge that the state government was not cooperating with the SEC, he said the state government had sanctioned Rs 100 crore to the SEC to conduct the panchayat poll.

                "Now, the Commission should go ahead to conduct the polls in a free, fair and peaceful manner," he said. He said the state government would send its reply to the Commission's letter and its decision by this evening.

                Earlier in the day, State Election Commissioner Mira Pandey met Governor M K Narayanan at the Raj Bhavan to apprise him of the situation in the backdrop of the stand-off between the state government and the Commission.

                Meanwhile, state secretariat sources said Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra would meet the Governor apparently to inform him about the state government's stand on the issue.

                The crucial panchayat elections in the state would be an acid test of popularity of major political parties before the Lok Sabha elections due next year.

                Most of the gram panchayats, panchayat samities and zilla parishads are at present controlled by the Left Front. The term of the existing bodies would end in May.

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