Calcutta, March 11: Panchayat polls could not have been held in Bengal in February as the delimitation process is yet to be completed, officials said in a disclosure that strikes at the root of Trinamul leader Mukul Roy’s allegation that state election commissioner Mira Pande was delaying the elections.
According to rules, it is mandatory for delimitation (redrawing boundaries of seats) to be complete before the election notification is issued.
The process is still going on because the Mamata Banerjee government had introduced reservation of seats for other backward classes and enhanced the participation of women in the rural bodies.
The Telegraph today learnt that the majority of the districts in Bengal had completed delimitation of seats in the three-tiers of rural bodies by the third week of February but the delimitation for the posts of chairpersons in these three tiers is yet to be completed.
Both delimitation processes have to be completed before the notification for the rural polls can be issued, said a senior official at Writers’ Buildings.
The posts of pradhans in gram panchayats, sabhapatis in panchayat samitis and sabhadhipatis in zilla parishads also come under delimitation because these posts are reserved on the basis of the population of a particular area.
For instance, if in one gram panchayat, the Scheduled Caste (SC) population is in the majority, the post of the panchayat pradhan, or chairperson, will be reserved for a SC candidate.
Some district magistrates today conceded that the delimitation for the chairpersons’ posts was yet to be done. The district magistrates are entrusted with the task of carrying out the delimitation process in each district.
“The process is almost complete. We have been asked to publish the final list by March 15. We will do this and the notification for the rural polls can be issued anytime after that,” said a district magistrate.
Senior officials at Writers’ Buildings said that as the process was not complete yet, accusing Pande of delaying the polls was not justified.
“We have mouza-based data on the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe population in the districts. But we did not have any such data for OBCs. The OBC survey was undertaken in September and it took one month to get completed. Based on this data, the majority of the districts started work on the delimitation process in the last week of October,” said a senior official.
“There was no scope for holding the panchayat polls in February. In fact, Pande had held two meetings with the district magistrates in December and January to expedite the process,” another official added.
Governor M.K. Narayanan, asked about Mukul’s comments on Pande, said today: “All I have to say is that such utterances about somebody who is carrying out constitutional responsibility is unfortunate and should be avoided.”