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The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Govt’s 1-day rural poll wish hits wall

Calcutta, Jan. 25: The state election commission (SEC) has expressed reservations about holding the panchayat polls in one phase as desired by the state government.

In a letter to the home secretary yesterday, the SEC said it would be tough to hold trouble-free elections if they were conducted in a single phase.

“The commission has informed the state that it is tough to get central paramilitary forces for conducting local elections like the panchayat polls. The commission also felt that it would be tough to hold trouble-free polls in one phase by deploying state forces only,” a senior Writers’ official said.

The state government had urged the SEC earlier this month to consider whether the rural polls could be held in one phase.

The SEC had last year rejected a government proposal to conduct the polls in either end-December or January and made it clear that it was not possible to advance the elections.

The SEC had turned down the proposal of advancing the polls.

“The SEC had said the fresh voter list would be published in January and there would not be enough time to hold the polls before the exam season, which starts in mid-February. The SEC had said at least 45 days would be required to complete all the mandatory work after the fresh list is published,” an official said.

Earlier this week, the Left Front demanded that the panchayat elections be held in at least three phases to ensure proper security measures.

CPM central committee member Mohammad Salim said the SEC had done the right thing.

“Such a big election cannot be held in one phase primarily because of law and order problems. If one wants to hold the polls without any security, he or she would demand one-phase elections,” Salim said.

The SEC’s reluctance to hold the polls in one phase could lead to a fresh tug of war between the commission and the government.

A minister told The Telegraph: “I can’t understand why the SEC is raising questions over the law and order situation (ahead of the polls). If the state is not confident about maintaining law and order, would it have proposed a one-phase election?”