Decision comes after pressure from State Election Commission
Under pressure from the State Election Commission, the West Bengal government on Tuesday revised the list of districts going to the polls in the first and second phase of panchayat elections, but stuck to its stand on two-phase election and that the deployment of Central paramilityary forces was unwarranted.
The decision comes a day after the State Election Commission had written a letter to the government seeking clarifications on its unilateral announcement of the poll schedule last week. The letter appeared to be the one written by a “schoolboy,” said Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee.
While 11 districts in south Bengal will go to the polls in the first phase on April 26, elections in six districts — Murshidabad in south Bengal and five districts in north Bengal — will be held on April 30. This is a change from the government’s earlier announcement that 14 districts will go to the polls in the fist phase and the remaining three in the second phase.
“We are always ready to accommodate the other viewpoint. Our responsibility to conduct elections is more than [that of] others,” Mr. Mukherjee told journalists here, adding the government wanted to avoid dispute as far as possible.
“Since the commission raised the issue [reorganisation of districts], we have decided to consider it again so that there is no misunderstanding,” he said.
Ruling out deployment of Central paramilitary forces for the rural polls, Mr. Mukherjee said that the law and order situation in West Bengal was better than that in any other State. “The question of such deployment does not arise.”
Deployment of armed police personnel was enough to ensure smooth polls, Mr. Mukherjee said. If required, police forces could be requisitioned from other States.
Earlier in the day, at a meeting convened by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the government stand was discussed. Mr. Mukherjee along with senior State officials was present.