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West Bengal State Election Commission issues notification for panchayat polls

Kolkata The West Bengal State Election Commission on Monday issued the notification for phase one of the three-phase panchayat (rural body) polls, kickstarting the formal poll process and enforcing the model code of conduct.

Candidates in nine districts - set to go to the hustings July 2 - will file nominations from May 29, the notification said.

The second and third phases will be held on July 6 and July 9 respectively, and the corresponding notifications would be issued on May 31 and June 3.

However, State Election Commissioner Meera Pande said the panel was yet to receive details about the availability of security forces.

"We are watching the situation. We are yet to receive the details from the government. We expect the state government will take due note of the Calcutta High Court order. We expect the government to inform us by tomorrow (about the details of security forces)," Pande told mediapersons in Kolkata.

Earlier this month, a division bench of the High Court had asked the state government to compensate shortfall of security personnel, if any, by procuring forces from other states or the centre.

The court had also spelt out a scheme of deployment of security personnel in the 57,000 odd poll booths.

Asked how the panel notify the polls without having details of the security forces, she said the commission could wait till May 29 when the filing of nominations for the first phase begins.

She said the commission will do "everything possible within its powers" to ensure free and fair polls.

The opposition Left Front, however, expressed concerns about the security of its candidates, and sought security for its contestants from the nominations stage.

"It is the duty of the State Election Commission to ensure security in order to hold free and fair polls," said Left Front chairman Biman Bose.

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