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Bengal Panchayat Polls to be Held in Single Phase on May 14

The polls were earlier supposed to be held in the three phases – on May 1, 3 and 5. If the SEC had maintained the three-phase timeline, polling would have spilled over into the Ramzan period and likely impacted Muslim votes.

Sujit Nath | News18.com

Updated:April 27, 2018, 7:52 AM IST
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Bengal Panchayat Polls to be Held in Single Phase on May 14
The poll was delayed as violence had marred the nomination process. (Representational image)
Kolkata: The West Bengal State Election Commission has announced that Panchayat Polls in the state will be held in a single phase on May 14 while the counting of votes will be held on May 17.

The polls were earlier supposed to be held in the three phases – on May 1, 3 and 5. If the SEC had maintained the three-phase timeline, polling would have spilled over into the Ramzan period and likely impacted Muslim votes.

The polling was deferred by the Calcutta High Court after opposition parties moved courts alleging violence and intimidation by the ruling party during the nomination process.

Trinamool Congress leaders had recently met the West Bengal Election Commissioner AK Singh and requested him to conclude the Panchayat Polls before Ramzan, saying Muslims may find it difficult to votes due to fasting.

They also appraised him about the extreme heat across the state and how this could cause more problems for voters if the poll process is further delayed.

WBEC had earlier decided to conduct the polls in three phases citing security reasons. “But what happened suddenly that the WBEC Commissioner AK Singh agreed to conduct the poll on single day. The security situation in Bengal is same as it was before during filing of nominations. There is a blood bath across and ruling party workers are terrorizing our leaders. Where is the surety that the WBEC will organize free and fair poll. We don’t have any trust on state Election Commission,” State BJP President Dilip Ghosh said.

Presently, there are 58000 booths (approx) in Panchayat election but the state (West Bengal Police) is having nearly 46,000 armed police and 12,000 unarmed police (with cane). This mean it will be difficult to deploy at least one policeman in some of the booths.

Usually, two to three policeman (including one armed) is required to guard a poll booth but under the current situation/calculation it will be difficult for the EC to conduct free and fair poll unless they deploy additional forces from the Kolkata Police/civic volunteers of the Kolkata and state police.

Left Front Chairman Biman Bose condemned EC’s decision to conduct poll on single phase. He said, “The EC should have decided the poll dates after consulting all the major stakeholders (all political parties). The EC didn’t consulted before taking the final call and announced the dates based on the suggestion from the ruling government in Bengal.”

Congress MP Pradip Bhattacharya said, “The new poll date is nothing but a formality. Under the current situation it is difficult for the people to exercise their voting rights freely.”

Political observers said that the new dates were crucial for Banerjee because if the fasting Muslims did not come out to cast their ballot, it would have impacted the vote share of the TMC.

The BJP, which has emerged as the principal opposition in the state, had said that if the TMC loses out on some Muslim votes, it was due to its own blunders.

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