Calcutta, March 4: The Mamata Banerjee government will write to the state election commission proposing that panchayat polls be held in two phases and armed forces from other states be deployed, the decision signalling a climbdown from its earlier stand of a single-phase poll.
“We will send a letter informing the commission about the change in the government’s stand. We hope there will be a convergence now,” a source today said in Writers’. “The letter will be dispatched day after tomorrow.”
The views of the state and the commission had been divergent till now, with the poll panel proposing a three-phase election under the CRPF and the government wanting a one-round affair with deployment of state forces.
According to the source, the move to write the letter showed that the chief minister had conceded ground after the commission made it clear that it was not willing to toe the government’s line.
Sources said the government’s decision to step back from its earlier stand was because of administrative problems it faced in the past few months.
The letter mentions that the two-phase polls may be held in the last week of April. Sources at the state secretariat said the government has had preliminary talks on drawing security personnel from neighbouring states.
“Bengal does send forces to other states during their elections. Officials have found that there are no elections scheduled in Tripura, Assam and Bihar at the end of April or in the early part of May when the state is thinking of holding the panchayat polls,” a senior official said.
Sources said the government was planning to hold the first phase of elections in three districts — Coochbehar, Malda and North Dinajpur — and cover the rest of the state in the second phase.
The state election commission had cited security reasons while making it clear that it wanted to hold the polls in three phases with CRPF deployment.
The bargaining process started in September last year, after which both the government and the panel sent four letters to each other.
“We won’t force anything. Neither can they do the same. It’s true that the exchange of letters has been going on for some time now. Both sides have their logic. Let’s see what happens,” panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee said.
State Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya today urged the government to convene an all-party meeting before finalising the dates for the panchayat elections and placed a demand for polls in four phases under the watch of central forces.
“Elections will be held in over 57,000 booths and this is why a four-phase exercise under central forces is required,” he said, adding that the state unit of the party had already requested Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde for deployment of central forces during the polls.
Bhattacharya ruled out any alliance with Trinamul.
“The results of the bypolls in Nalhati, Rejinagar and Englishbazar have emboldened us to contest the rural polls on our own. While we won the Rejinagar seat, in the other two, we bagged a substantial number of votes despite the defeat of our candidates,” he added.