State expresses willingness to hold civic polls by April 30
The state government informed a Calcutta High Court division bench headed by Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava that it intends to complete the poll process in 114 civic bodies of the state by April 30 next year.
S.N. Mukherjee, the state’s advocate-general, made the submission to the division bench on Thursday. Mukherjee also informed that these polls would be held in phases and that the Calcutta Municipal Corporation would go to polls on December 19.
Meanwhile on Thursday, the BJP moved a petition before the same bench, challenging the legality of the notification on the CMC polls issued by the state election commission, even as a related case remains pending before the court. It was contended in the petition that the court was already hearing a case, which sought polls to all 114 civic bodies on a single day and not in phases.
The new petition referred to a statement made by the counsel of the state poll panel on Wednesday. The lawyers of the commission had hinted that it wouldn’t announce polls unless the case was disposed of.
However, the commission did notify the polls to the CMC on Thursday, an act that must be considered as contempt of court, the petition said. Chief Justice Shrivastava said that the new petition would be heard along with the main case on November 29.
The BJP’s chief state spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said that his party would first fight out a legal battle over the poll panel’s notification. He added that if necessary, the BJP would move higher courts.
“We will not hide behind the judiciary and contest the polls with full might. However, we are considering all legal options since we think the notification is proof that the state government and the commission are imposing their might on the people of the state,” Bhattacharya said.
“Do the residents of Calcutta belong to a privileged class...? Why should the residents of all other municipalities and corporations be deprived of civic amenities?” he questioned.
CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty also said that his party has demanded simultaneous polls to all civic bodies. He wondered why the commission backtracked from what its counsel had said before the court on Wednesday.
“The state government delayed the polls to the civic bodies. We want all polls on a single day. What will happen to the rest? Is this some madman’s rule? The commission has lost its backbone,” Chakraborty alleged.
The Congress’s Rajya Sabha Pradip Bhattacharya also spoke in favour of conducting polls to all 114 civic bodies on a single day.
BJP leaders alleged that it was unfair on the part of the commission to notify polls to the CMC while the matter was pending before the court.
They also said in earlier instances, whenever the party or anyone else had moved court challenging the polls, it was said that the court couldn’t stall or interfere in a poll process once it had begun.
“We would like to mention here that this time the BJP had moved court before the notification was issued and before the polls had started,” Bhattacharya said.
Trinamul Congress, however, debunked the Opposition’s claims and said that the party or the government had no role in it.
Trinamul vice-president Saugata Roy said the state poll panel is an independent body that has announced the polls on its own.
“They (BJP) should’ve lodged their complaints with the state poll panel rather than voicing them against us…. The BJP had won not a single Assembly seat (in Calcutta). They know they’ll lose and hence this drama,” he said.
“Polls have been announced. Now our candidates will file nomination and we shall start campaigning for them,” he added.
Candidates list: Bengal BJP’s general-secretary (organisation) Amitava Chakraborty, CMC poll in-charge Pratap Banerjee, CMC poll observer and MP Arjun Singh and party leader Sisir Bajoria met on Thursday evening to discuss a probable candidate list for the polls for the Calcutta civic polls. However, party sources said that the BJP would not be able to declare all 144 candidates at one go. The names would be announced in phases and the first list won’t be out before Saturday, sources added.
The Left Front is likely to announce its list of candidates on Friday. The Front will announce names of 128 candidates and leave out 16 wards where it sees no chance of even putting up a fight.
“These 16 wards also include some Congress strongholds. We might not field our candidate against them,” a party source said.