Govt rebuffs SEC, issues two-phase panchayat poll notice
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REJECTING the State Election Commission's proposal to hold three-phase poll for the three-tier panchayat system in West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress government on Friday unilaterally issued the notification for holding the panchayat elections in the state in two phases.
While the elections in 14 districts will be held on April 26, the government has fixed another date — April 30 — for holding the panchayat elections in the three districts of North Dinajpur, Malda and Murshidabad, all Congress bastions.
Announcing the government's decision, Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee said the notification has been issued in "consultation with the State Election Commission and abiding by the Rule 203, Section 42 of the West Bengal Panchayat Act".
On the contentious issue of deploying Central paramilitary forces during the polls, as proposed by the SEC, the minister said armed police will be deployed at every polling booth and added that the government has "not specified deployment of any kind of additional forces".
The tug of war between the state government and the Commission over the panchayat polls has been going on for the last seven months. In July last year, Chief Secretary wrote to the Commission asking it to hold the elections in November, but the latter did not agree to it as the Opposition parties claimed that new electoral roll revision process has not been started. From then onwards, the two have been locked in a war of nerves. The SEC recently proposed a three-phase poll with the help of Central forces. This angered the government with Trinamool Congress ministers even accusing State Election Commissioner Meera Pandey of being "an agent of the CPM". However, Pandey has remained firm on the Commission's decision and in an interview to The Indian Express justified holding the elections in three phases purely on "operational advantage".
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