Panchayat polls: Deadlock on between Bengal government, poll panel

Kolkata, March 28 (IANS) The deadlock between the West Bengal government and the State Election Commission on the deployment of central paramilitary troopers for the coming Panchayat (rural body) polls stretched to Thursday as both sides stuck to their stands.

Governor M.K. Narayanan, however, seemed to be playing a more pro-active role to resolve the dispute.
State Panchayats Minister Subrata Mukerjee contended that there was “no need” to deploy the central paramilitary troopers and favoured holding the polls “with the resources we have in the state”.
Hours later, Mukherjee disclosed that he would go to the Raj Bhavan Friday as Narayanan “wanted to speak” to him.
To another query, he said the state government had received three to four letters demanding the use of central paramilitary forces.
Trinamool Congress general secretary Mukul Roy said the government has not crossed the limits of its constitutional power.
“Our constitution demarcates everybody’s boundaries. We hope all other constitutional bodies will stay within their jurisdiction to keep intact the democratic traditions,” Roy told media persons here in an oblique reference to the state Election Commission.
He also denied that the deadlock has precipitated any crisis.
Earlier in the day, state election commissioner Meera Pandey held a fresh round of parleys with Narayanan and later told the media that another letter has been sent to the state government.
Informed sources said the letter stressed the need for deploying central paramilitary forces.
“Our primary concern is security, not the number of phases in the which the panchayat elections will be held,” Commission secretary Tapas Ray told reporters.
In its letters to the state government, the Commission has suggested deployment of 800 companies of central forces to ensure free and fair polls to the rural bodies.
Commission sources said there was “no question of budging from our stand”.
On the other hand, the opposition Left Front described the stand-off as “undesirable” and said the state government would have to take responsibility for the “stalemate”.
“If there is a stalemate, then neither the people, nor the Left Front will be responsible. The responsibility will lie at the door of the state government,” LF chairman Biman Bose told the media.
The dispute between the state government and the election panel arose after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s regime announced a two-phase polls April 26 and April 30 by deploying state police personnel.
The government said while 14 districts will go to the hustings on phase one, three remaining districts – Malda, Murshidabad and Uttar Dinajpur – will vote on phase two. Incidentally, all the three districts are considered strongholds of the opposition Congress.
The state election commission earlier favoured three-stage polling by deploying central forces.
After the state government’s announcement, the commission sought clarifications on the poll schedule and raised the issue of reorganisation of the districts going to the polls on the two days, while continuing to root for use of the central forces.
The government then announced that 11 districts in south Bengal excluding Murshidabad will hold the polls April 26, and the remaining ones April 30.
However, the revised schedule announced by the state government ensured that the elections in the three districts where the Congress has a strong base are held on the same day.