The Telegraph
Friday , March 21 , 2014
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Finger at govt over civic polls

Calcutta, March 20: The Bengal government is allegedly dragging its feet on elections to 17 civic bodies and one mahakuma parishad that have to be completed by June 28.

Nabanna sources said the government, which should have begun work on the election process in January, did not want the polls to take place during the tenure of state election commissioner Mira Pande.

Pande, who was born on July 22, 1949, is scheduled to retire in July as she will turn 65.

“The government is yet to respond to three letters on the issue. The first letter was sent early this year. It was followed up with two reminders, the last of which was sent last week. But we are yet to receive any reply. The elections cannot be held before the expiry of the term of these elected bodies,” a state election commission source said.

Around six months prior to June 28, the government was supposed to tell the commission to begin work on the poll process and inform the panel if delimitation was necessary. The civic polls are conducted by the state poll panel but the state government’s go-ahead is required to start the process.

But as of this evening, Pande’s office is yet to hear from the government on when the polls are to take place.

“The government wants the civic polls to be held after Pande’s tenure ends. As the Lok Sabha elections will be held in April-May, it could be used as an excuse to defer the civic polls. Administrators will be appointed to run the bodies for a few weeks, if necessary. The civic elections could be held in late July or early August,” a source said .

The state election commission and the government had locked horns last year over the conduct of the panchayat polls, which culminated in a court battle. From the need for central forces to the appointment of observers, Pande had fought the government tooth and nail for the sake of “free, fair and peaceful” rural polls.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in favour of the commission had made it impossible for the government and Trinamul to defy Pande and the administration does not want to risk another friction with the IAS officer. Pande, who took an early retirement in 2009 to take charge as the commissioner, is supposed to hold the post for six years or till the age of 65, whichever is earlier.