A single-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court Tuesday said that May 14, the date announced by the State Election Commission (SEC) for rural polls, is a tentative one, and that the official date will be finalised by a division bench after it is satisfied with security arrangements. The matter will be heard next on May 4.
Justice Subrata Talukdar also pulled up the SEC for not doing its homework in terms of security provisions for polling day.
After hearing petitions filed by the Party for Democratic Socialism (PDS), CPM and BJP, Justice Talukdar said the division bench evaluating the security aspect will fix the date.
“The court has ruled that May 14 is a tentative date. If it is satisfied with the security arrangements, polling will be held on that day,” said Lok Sabha MP and advocate for Trinamool Congress Kalyan Banerjee. He also accused the PDS and CPM of “teaming up” to stop the elections.
Opposition parties have on several occasions accused the ruling party of resorting to violence to stop the former’s candidates from filing their papers during the nomination process. A record 34.2% of the 58,692 seats at the gram panchayat, panchayat samiti and zilla parishad levels have been won uncontested by TMC candidates.
“We welcome the decision of the Calcutta HC. There is widespread apprehension that people will not be able to cast their votes freely and fairly, especially after what has happened during the nomination phase. We don’t want to stop the polls, we merely want to ensure free and fair elections,” said BJP’s Bengal unit general secretary Pratap Banerjee.