Bengal SEC fixes April 23 for filing of panchayat poll nominations

Kolkata, April 21 (IANS) Acting on a Calcutta High Court order, the West Bengal State Election Commission on Saturday fixed April 23 as the extended deadline for filing of nomination papers for the coming panchayat polls in the state, an official notification said.

According to the notification, nominations can be filed between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Monday.

The commission also fixed April 25 for scrutiny of fresh nominations and April 28 as the last date for withdrawal of candidatures.

The SEC, however, has not issued the fresh polling dates. The panchayat elections were originally scheduled for May 1, 3, and 5, with counting of votes fixed for May 8.

The fresh notification was issued following the High Court order of April 20 to the SEC to extend the deadline for filing of nominations in consultation with the state government and other important stakeholders and finalise the new election schedule.

Earlier in day, Election Commissioner Amarendra Kumar Singh convened a meeting with various political parties and state’s representatives on the extension of deadline for filing nominations.

“We do not want the elections to happen during too much heat or in the rainy season. We do not want the elections to be held in Ramadan month either. It should be completed as soon as possible. However, we do not have any objection if one day of polling falls within the month of Ramadan,” ruling Trinamool Congress Secretary General Partha Chatterjee said after meeting the SEC.

A five-member delegation of the state BJP initially boycotted the meeting and accusing the poll panel of not allowing more than two of its leaders to talk to the Election Commissioner in spite of prior intimation and filed a complaint with the High Court Register General.

The opposition party alleged that the state government was putting pressure on the SEC to conduct polling in one day.

Later in the evening, a two-member team led by BJP leader Mukul Roy met the Election Commissioner and appealed him for two-phased polling.

“We told him that the state government does not have sufficient police personnel to conduct the polling in one day and asked him to chose two days for polling. We also asked him to deploy central paramilitary forces during the polling days to ensure free and fair elections,” Roy said.

The CPI-M also asked the SEC to ensure adequate security on the day of filing of fresh nominations and said the party will move court in case of violence or disruptions in the process.

The opposition BJP, CPI-M, Congress and PDS had moved the court, accusing Trinamool of unleashing massive pre-poll violence against their party workers to prevent them from filing nominations ever since the poll process began on April 2.

Justice Subrata Talukdar on Friday quashed the SEC’s April 10 order that had cancelled the extension of date for filing of nominations, which the poll panel announced on April 9 night, directing it to issue a fresh extended deadline for filing of nominations in consultation with the state government and other stakeholders.

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