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State rural poll letter

Calcutta, Sept. 5: The Mamata Banerjee government today set the ball rolling for the panchayat polls by sending a letter to the state election commission formally asking it to hold the elections early next year.

A senior Writers’ official told The Telegraph: “The panchayat secretary today wrote to the state election commission urging it to hold the polls early next year. Government officials, including the chief secretary and the panchayat secretary, held a series of meetings with the state election commissioner recently, where the government made it clear that it wanted to hold the polls between the last week of January and the first week of February. Today, the state government has sent the request in writing.”

Panchayat secretary Saurav Das was not available for comment. Panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee said: “I don’t know. The chief minister can only speak on this.”

Tapas Ray, secretary to the state election commissioner, said this evening that a letter in a sealed envelope had arrived from the panchayat department secretary. The letter, “in all probability”, contains the government’s proposal regarding the timing of the panchayat polls, he said.

“The letter arrived after 5.30pm. I had left for the day (by then). We will go through the letter tomorrow. Only after going through it can we talk about when the government would like the polls to take place,” Ray said.

The government has started the initiative to complete all pending work, such as delimitation of seats in the three-tier panchayat system and implementation of reservations for OBCs and women in the rural bodies, within the first week of October.

A poll panel source said: “If all the pending work is completed by the beginning of October, there should not be any problem in holding the elections early next year. We will be able to conduct the polls by early February.”