|Pande at the interactive session. Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta, Oct. 8: State election commissioner Mira Pande has referred to constraints state election commissions face, flagging lacunae in powers that led to a nebulous situation during the panchayat polls in Bengal.
From explaining how the SECs cannot draw election officials from the pool of central officers to mentioning the absence of provisions to empower the commission to decide poll dates, the retired IAS officer today touched upon several issues during an interactive session with members of MCC Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
“The SECs act under various provisions of the state acts,” Pande said at the beginning of a presentation, where she tried to distinguish between the functions and powers of the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the SECs.
A Bengal law allows the state government to decide poll dates in consultation with the SEC. The state panel had challenged the law but after multiple rounds in courts, the question of who enjoys supremacy has not been settled.
Although SEC sources had indicated that the commission would move court for clarity, Pande today evaded questions on the topic.
“In some states, the SECs decide on the election dates, but in states like Bengal, the government decides the date in consultation with the commission,” she said, highlighting the lack of uniformity.
Pande did not refer to the conflict with the Bengal government. But she mentioned “mind-boggling numbers” (58,000 constituencies and over three lakh nominations in the rural polls) and the “stupendous” work in the run-up, explaining why the SEC needed time.
She added how the SEC was dependent on the state government for manpower and funds. “For observers, the SEC can only draw from the pool of state government officers…. But the ECI draws from the central pool,” Pande said.
Complaints had risen earlier that officials based in states were reluctant to report malpractice for fear of offending the government in power.