Counting of votes in the West Bengal panchayat polls has been fixed for July 29, the West Bengal State Election Commission (SEC) announced here on Thursday.
The announcement came a day after the State government issued the final notification for holding the polls. The five-phase polling, to elect local bodies in 17 districts of the State, begins on July 11 and ends on July 25. State Election Commissioner Mira Pandey had said on Saturday that the counting date could be announced only after the State government notified the polls.
However, no decision seems to have been taken on rescheduling the poll timings, which are presently scheduled to start at 7 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. Several Muslim organisations had met Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the State secretariat on Thursday to place their demands in this regard. They also submitted memoranda to the SEC.
Aside from advancing the poll timings in view of Ramzan (so that the fast could be broken as stipulated), they also wanted that Muslims be spared from poll duty and polling be halted for some hours to allow for Friday prayers on July 19 — a poll day.
The State government had moved the Supreme Court on Monday seeking a shift of the rural poll dates in view of Ramzan. This was, however, disallowed by the court, which stuck to the schedule announced last week. The Left parties have also met the SEC chief to place their requests for change in poll timings in views of Ramzan.
Meanwhile, a high-level meeting was held between senior SEC officials and the senior State government officials including Home Secretary Basudeb Banerjee, Director General of Police Naparajit Mukherjee, and Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Banibrata Basu to discuss security and other arrangements.
Regarding force deployment, it has been decided that while the State government would give 35,600 personnel, the Centre would provide 15,000 for the first phase, when three left-wing-extremism affected districts Bankura, Purulia and Paschim Medinipur would go to the polls.
While the meeting with administrative officials discussed the law and order situation, another meeting was also held with poll observers during the day.
An all-party meeting has been convened on Saturday at the SEC.