Sends another letter to State Election Commission

Remaining firm in its stand to hold the rural polls without the deployment of central paramilitary forces, the State government sent another letter to the State Election Commission (SEC) here on Saturday, but that did little to ease the face-off on the issue between the government and the Commission.

Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjere who met senior government officials at the State Secretariat said the “government does not accept the rationale behind deployment of 800 companies of Central paramilitary forces” at an expense of Rs. 400 crore to the State exchequer.

Referring to the violence during college polls referred to in the letters sent by the Commission, he said, “such incidents cannot be the barometer of the law and order situation in the State.”

Mr. Mukherjee’s optimism that even if the Commission issued a notification during the day, the polls could be held as scheduled were dashed as no notification was issued by the State Election Commission. Now there seems to be little possibility that the first phase of rural polls will be held on April 26 as per the State government’s notification last week.

The deployment of paramilitary forces is one of the most contentious issues between the government and the Commission on which they have failed to come to an agreement. While the Commission is insisting on its deployment, the State government is opposed to it.

“I hope that after receiving the letter, the Commission, will consider all the issues and start the process of conducting the elections,” Mr. Mukherjee said.

Meanwhile amid reports that the State Election Commission was consulting legal experts, officials of the Commission speaking on condition of anonymity said that legal recourse cannot be ruled out.

“Yes we have received a letter and are examining its contents,” Tapas Ray, secretary of the Commission said. Asked whether the Commission will take the matter to court, a senior official said it will take decisions, after examining the contents of the letter.

“We are not going to court. We are still pinning our hopes on the decision of the Commission,” Mr. Mukherjee told journalists while replying to a question earlier in the day.

The State government could only seek additional forces from other States through the Centre once the Commission decided on the dates to hold elections, he said, adding, “unless there is a notification [from the Commission] fixing dates the State government could not seek deployment of additional forces from the other States.”

Conspiracy, says Mukul Roy

Mukul Roy, the all-India general secretary of the Trinamool Congress, alleged here on Saturday it was a “grave conspiracy” on the part of the State Election Commission to purposely delay the panchayat elections.

“Even if a single person dies because of the heat wave we will take the body to the Commission and organise protests there,” he said, adding that he is “warning” the Commission not to delay the polls.

Mr. Roy said that while the officers of the State Election Commission remained in their offices, political workers will have to bear with the summer heat, if the rural polls are delayed further.