Calcutta, March 8: Trinamul today accused the state election commission of “crossing its limit”, a day after the panel said it was in favour of conducting the panchayat elections in three phases in the presence of central forces despite the chief minister’s opposition.
“The state election commission is crossing its limit,” said Mukul Roy, the Trinamul all-India general secretary, this afternoon after a meeting of the legislature party in the Assembly ahead of the budget session.
“The power to finalise dates for the panchayat polls lies with the state government. It’s the state government’s prerogative to decide whether central forces are required to conduct the panchayat polls peacefully,” he said, asked if the government would negotiate with the poll panel.
The panel wants the polls to be held in the presence of 800 companies of central forces, which the state is opposed to.
Although Roy, minister Partha Chatterjee and several Trinamul leaders voiced their grievances against the commission for not agreeing with the government on the poll schedule and security arrangements, panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee stressed on the need for the administration and the poll panel to take a decision together.
“Our battle is against political opponents, not against the election commission. There is a law. Both the commission and the government will abide by its provisions. The decision will be taken together, following an amicable settlement,” Mukherjee told The Telegraph this evening.
Yesterday, state election commissioner Mira Pande had written to the government, turning down its proposal to hold a two-phase election without central forces.
The state government had initially asked for a single round of elections with state police forces, but in its letter to the commission on Tuesday, it climbed down slightly. The government sought elections in two phases and police from neighbouring states.
The election commission has been harping on three phases of elections, each round covering six districts, in the presence of not less than 800 companies (comprising 90 to 110 personnel each) of central forces in addition to around 40,000 personnel of the state’s armed police.
“Section 42 of the West Bengal Panchayat Election Act, 2003, clearly states that the state government shall, in consultation with the commission, announce the date or dates for the panchayat polls. So going by this, it is the state government that has the final say on the dates for the panchayat polls. So, we shall keep the commission in the loop,” panchayat minister Mukherjee said.
According to commission sources, the state government is obliged to consult the panel before declaring the schedule and deciding on security arrangements.
“For adequate security arrangements, we feel there is the need for three phases and 800 companies of central forces. We have advised the government accordingly. Hopefully, there will be a consensus soon,” a poll panel source said.