Hundreds of candidates from the BJP and the CPM were unable to file nominations on Friday for the July 8 panchayat polls because of chaos and confusion brought about by the tight window between the announcement of the elections and the start of the nomination process.
On Thursday, the State Election Commission had announced its decision to hold the rural polls on July 8, for which the nomination process began on Friday morning.
Several senior district administration officials said a turnaround time of less than 24 hours to launch the process of distribution of nomination papers was “too short” and they found it difficult to handle the rush of candidates in block development offices across the state.
CPM and BJP leaders took to social media to claim that their candidates in Bankura’s Ranibandh, Khatra, Sonamukhi, Taldangra, Mejia, Barjora and Simlapal could not file nominations because of administrative shortcomings.
Similar reports came in from Baruipur in South 24-Parganas, Tufanganj and Mekhliganj in Cooch Behar, Salboni in West Midnapore, and Rampurhat and Suri in Birbhum.
In Hooghly, around 100 CPM and BJP candidates had to return from different block development offices as the officials concerned failed to provide them with nomination papers. The same was the case in parts of Murshidabad, East Burdwan, and Howrah districts.
Officials in various districts said the problem occurred because they did not get the time to complete the arrangements for issuing nomination papers.
The specific reasons included the following
1) District administrations could not issue nomination forms to candidates before 2pm at most places as the DCR (duplicate carbon receipt) did not reach the BDO offices from the treasury. The DCR is a money receipt given to the candidates on paying the requisite amount for nomination papers. On producing the DCR, a candidate gets the nomination form. As the polls were declared on Thursday, the authorities could not bring the DCR book earlier in the day.
2) The employees of BDO offices need to undergo training for issuing and accepting nomination papers. They need the training as three forms need to be issued, along with the nomination forms. While receiving the nomination forms, the employees need to check and verify the forms. Without thorough training, the staff will not be able to carry out the process of checking the forms. As the elections were declared on Thursday last evening, the required training sessions could not be held for the employees. Many block administrations conducted the training on Friday morning, which continued till 11.30am.
3) The nomination forms could not be issued from many BDO offices as there were no security arrangements. Some district magistrates raised the issue during a video conference between state election commissioner chief Rajiva Sinha and district authorities. The DMs pointed out that proper security arrangements were needed in the BDO offices as troubles had started in the 2013 and 2018 panchayat polls as soon as the Opposition parties had tried to get nomination papers. Some district officials said they could not make the security arrangement in the BDO offices for the lack of time.
A former bureaucrat who had worked with the poll panel for a few years said planning was the most important part of holding elections properly.
“The most important part of holding polls properly is a hassle-free nomination filing process. A detailed discussion is needed with the district authorities before the poll dates are announced. This gives them time to put in place the required arrangements to make the nomination process trouble-free,” said the retired bureaucrat.
A district magistrate said the required set-up to issue nomination papers was ready by late Friday and it was expected that the process would be smooth from Saturday.
Amid questions on whether the authorities were ready to launch the nomination process, the Opposition parties came down heavily on the State Election Commission.
“We have always said that under the State Election commission, no polls can be free and fair.... Our concerns have been proven right in the manner the polls were announced. The new commissioner cannot take any decision without consulting the government, which does not want to give the Opposition parties enough time.... The tight window for nomination also proves that,” said state Congress chief and MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.
BJP’s chief spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said Sinha had proved himself to be inexperienced and inefficient.
“It appears that the commission would be happy if it could declare Trinamul winners even before the polls,” he said.
Rural Cong worker killed, TMC blamed
Behrampore: Congress worker Fulchand Sheikh, who was likely to contest the July 8 panchayat polls, was shot dead allegedly by armed Trinamul-backed goons at his home in a Murshidabad village on Friday evening.
Sheikh, 45, of Ratanpur village in Khargram, was declared brought dead at Kandi subdivisional hospital. His relatives Manika Biwi, 35, and Niyamat Sheikh, 46, who were injured by splinters of crude bombs hurled at the house, have been hospitalised.
“The motive behind the murder is not clear yet,” said a police officer.
The Khargram block president of the Congress, Abul Kashem, claimed Trinamul goons led by panchayat member Rafique Sheikh killed Fulchand to prevent him from filing nomination papers.
State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said: “There is no need for an election with ballots if Trinamul wants to fight with bullets. We will launch protests against the brutal murder of our party colleague tomorrow (Saturday).”
Ashis Marjit, Trinamul’s Khargram MLA, claimed the party suspected the murder was over “personal rivalry” and the Congress was trying to add political colour to it.