West Bengal Panchayat Polls Finally Have A Date: May 14

The Supreme Court stayed the Calcutta High Court's order on electronic filing of nominations, which is something the CPM sought claiming its intending candidates could not file their papers because of what they called as Trinamool terror.

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"We are for free, fair and peaceful panchayat polls," Mamata Banerjee said


Kolkata:  Panchayat polls in West Bengal finally have a date: May 14. For chief minister Mamata Banerjee and the State Election Commission, it comes as a relief after almost six weeks of court battles with every opposition party in the state. 

"We welcome the decision on panchayat polls. The decision is in favour of the people. We are for free, fair and peaceful elections," Ms Banerjee said this evening. 

Trinamool's Derek O'Brien tweeted just one word once the picture became clear: "Boom" 

The Supreme Court stayed the Calcutta High Court's order on electronic filing of nominations, which is something the CPM sought claiming its intending candidates could not file their papers because of what they called as Trinamool terror. The Calcutta High Court had ordered that e-nominations should be accepted by the State Election Commission. 

At Calcutta High Court, the chief justice did not wish to interfere in the poll process and said polls may be held on May 14, later amending that date to "whenever" as there is a parallel case in the division bench tomorrow. The court ordered extensively on compensation to be paid to potential victims of poll violence.

But there is a thorn in the flesh for Mamata Banerjee. Supreme Court has expressed concern that 34 per cent seats were won by the ruling party without a contest and stayed the notification of the results. 

The Supreme Court took note of the percentage, the highest in panchayat polls in Bengal in the last 40 years. The record so far was held for the year 2003 when the Left won 11 per cent of seats unopposed. 

"What bothers us is 34 per cent candidates have been elected unopposed... Elections to be held in absolute fairness," the Supreme Court said, staying notification of those results. 

The Opposition said the Trinamool had been snubbed. The BJP's Pratap Bandopadhyay said, "I am happy Supreme Court recognized that 1.75 crore of 5.5 crore voters have not been able to vote in the uncontested seats." 

The Trinamool said there's no such thing. Results for the 34 per cent seats are not cancelled, said Trinamool leader Partha Chatterjee, adding, "The opposition shouldn't get too excited." 

But, since April 2, when nomination filing began, 14 Trinamool supporters have been killed in poll-linked violence, according to Mamata Banerjee. However, the BJP's Jai Prakash Majumdar claimed the death toll of their supporters is 52. Bombs and bullets have been thrown, fired. Swords and daggers have been on display. 

Of the 57,692 panchayat seats up for grabs, one third or about 20,000 seats were won without a fight. Opponents claimed intending candidates could not file nominations because of the Trinamool's terror. The Trinamool said the Opposition parties don't have feet on the ground so failed to field candidates.

Panchayat polls would have come and gone by the time Supreme Court hears the case on July 3. But lessons may yet have to be learnt.  


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