Bengal opposition wants central forces for panchayat polls

Kolkata, May 14: With the Calcutta High Court observing that deployment of central paramilitary forces was not mandatory for the upcoming panchayat polls in West Bengal, the opposition Tuesday expressed apprehension over the fairness of the elections.

“We have no faith in this state government (West Bengal), which has been allowed by the court to notify the schedule of the panchayat polls. There is the SEC (State Election Commission), but we have serious doubts if the state government will allow the SEC to function independently,” Communist Party of India-Marxist politburo member and leader of opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra said.

The Congress also echoed Mishra’s views and emphasised on the need for central security forces for free and fair elections.

“I am not aware about what the court has said about central forces, but we have always maintained that central security forces are imperative for the polls to be peaceful and fair,” state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya said.

“I don’t know how the polls can be conducted by using only state police. In such a case, we have our doubts over the fairness of the elections,” added Bhattacharya.

The BJP also expressed its apprehensions over the fairness of the polls.

“Whether we will be able to file the nominations, will the people be able to vote or not, the question remains,” BJP state president Rahul Sinha said.

“The administration is running according to the directions of the party (Trinamool Congress). Conducting polls with the state police means that nothing has changed,” added Sinha.

A division bench of Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Justice J.M. Bagchi Tuesday directed the three-phase panchayat election be held and concluded by July 15 and asked the state government to notify the poll dates in consultation with the SEC.

The division bench, rejecting the SEC’s plea for 800 companies of central armed police forces, said the state government may procure forces from other states or the centre, if necessary.

IANS