Govt rules out central forces for panchayat polls

The stand-off between the West Bengal government and state election commission (SEC) over deployment of central paramilitary forces for the rural polls continued today as the state government,in its reply to the SEC,ruled out the possibility of deploying central paramilitary forces during the panchayat polls.

Written by Express News Service | Kolkata | Published:March 31, 2013 3:00 am

The stand-off between the West Bengal government and state election commission (SEC) over deployment of central paramilitary forces for the rural polls continued today as the state government,in its reply to the SEC,ruled out the possibility of deploying central paramilitary forces during the panchayat polls.

The stalemate between the government and poll panel now puts a big question mark on the possibility of the panchayat election being held on the dates notified by the state government.

With the government sending another letter to the SEC today,the deadlock between them inched towards a legal dispute.

State Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee said today at a press conference,“The state government has decided to reply to the commission. We have sent a letter to the SEC stating our views on its proposal. We do not agree to its proposal of deploying 800 companies of central police force in the districts during the polls. It is not justified that the government spends Rs 400 crore to deploy central forces. The panchayat poll can be held on April 26 and April 30,as was notified by the government,if the SEC issues the notification for the polls today.”

Mukherjee held the press conference after holding a meeting for several hours with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today. The panchayat minister,after meeting senior government officials,made it clear that the government does not accept the logic behind deployment of 800 companies of paramilitary forces at a cost of Rs 400 crore. Pointing out incidents of violence during college polls,he said that such incidents cannot be the barometer of the rural polls.

“I hope that after receiving the letter the SEC will start the process of conducting the elections,” Mukherjee said. He pointed out that the government does not have plans to move court,though it is prepared to answer any legal dispute if required.

Meanwhile,amid reports that the SEC is consulting legal experts,officials of the commission did not rule out legal recourse. “We are examining the contents of the letter,” Tapas Ray,SEC secretary,said. Senior SEC officials said they would not send fresh proposals to the government on the matter.

Stating that the state can only seek additional forces from other states through the Centre once the SEC decides on the date for elections,Mukherjee said that even if the SEC issues a notification during the day,the first phase of elections can be held on April 26 as scheduled. “Unless there is a notification,for what period will we seek deployment of additional forces from other states?” he added.

SEC sources said it is not likely to issue the notification on Saturday. The commission is likely to move to court citing non-cooperation from the state government in conducting the elections. State election commissioner Meera Pandey held a meeting today,for the fourth time in a row,with senior lawyers of the Calcutta High court.

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