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Panchayat elections in the state will be conducted in three phases in May, West Bengal State Election Commission announced on Saturday. The polls will be held in 20 districts on May 1, 3 and 5, while counting will be held on May 8. The last date for filing nomination is April 9.
As per the commission, the first phase of the polls will be held in Nadia, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, East Burdwan, West Burdwan, Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, West Midnapore and East Midnapore. The second phase will be conducted in Murshidabad and Birbhum, while the last phase will be held in Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Malda.
About 5.08 crore voters will elect 48,650 gram panchayat functionaries, 9,217 panchayat samity members and 825 members of zilla parishads.
“Re-election for first phase will be held on May 3, for second phase on May 5 and the final phase on May 7,” State Election Commissioner A K Singh told reporters.
The commission earlier this week had met representatives of political parties and discussed preparations for the polls. Though the previous panchayat elections were held in July, the state government this time said that elections become difficult in July due to monsoon.
The Opposition, however, said the election commission did not consider the “volatile” situation in Bengal before announcing the poll dates.
CPM leader leader Sujan Chakraborty said, “They have given us very little time (to prepare for the polls). The commission announces dates after consulting with the state government. Board exams are on, the situation in Bengal is volatile, yet they did not consider it. The early date for polls is nothing but it is just that the state government wants things (to be) their way. Polls will be conducted the day they want and people of Bengal will answer them.”
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said they might approach court to postpone the dates. “We had expected this. As has been announced, nominations have to be completed by April 9. Board exams will be on till April 12. The TMC government had moved the Calcutta High Court in 1999 when the poll dates were clashing with the Board exams. The court had then directed that polls should not be held during exams. We don’t have any problem with the dates… we will prepare ourselves. But, we are also checking if we can appeal to court,” he said.
Congress MLA Manoj Chakraborty demanded deployment of central forces during the polls. “The votes will be looted if the elections are held without (the supervision) of central forces.”
The Trinamool Congress, however, alleged that the Opposition is scared to face the elections because of the development works done in Bengal. “They have a reason to be scared as under the leadership of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee the kind of development people have seen is unmatchable. That is the reason why they don’t want to face the elections,” said Trinamool General Secretary Partha Chatterjee.
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