Kolkata: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday said the state stood vindicated by the Supreme Court’s verdict from earlier in the day allowing the state election commission to declare winners in uncontested seats in the recently concluded panchayat elections.
The opposition parties—the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM and the Congress—had moved various courts claiming that the ruling Trinamool Congress had rigged the elections and had forcibly obstructed people from filing nominations.
As many as 20,159 seats, or around 34% of the total, went uncontested this year—a record high for the state. The opposition parties had moved court demanding that the state election commission allow candidates to file nominations through electronic channels such as email and Whatsapp.
Though the Calcutta High Court had ruled in favour of the proposal, saying that it was a measure to ensure wider participation, the Supreme Court issued an injunction. Because of the pending legal challenge, the state election commission could not declare the results in the uncontested seats.
On Friday, passing its verdict, the apex court said though the intention of the high court judgment was to ensure a fair election, there was no provision in the laws governing panchayat elections for filing nominations through electronic channels.
After Friday’s verdict, the state election commission will declare the winners in the uncontested seats. But those aggrieved by the result can still move local courts and file so-called election petitions within 30 days of formal declaration of results, the Supreme Court said.
The BJP said it was happy with the verdict and that it would continue to legally fight the outcome of panchayat elections in local courts. But it is not going to make much difference, admitted key leaders.
The true strength of the Trinamool Congress will soon be known in the 2019 general elections because it will be held on the watch of central paramilitary forces, said Dilip Ghosh, the state president of the BJP.
The CPM’s politburo member Biman Bose said “a mockery of an election" had received the stamp of legitimacy.
Banerjee said the “trio of BJP, CPM and the Congress" had in West Bengal ganged up to undermine West Bengal’s public image. They spread canards to mislead people about seats that went uncontested, she said, adding that with Friday’s verdict the state administration stood vindicated.
It is not unusual for seats in panchayat elections going uncontested, she argued, citing the example of Uttar Pradesh where there was no contest in as much as 57% of the seats.
The Trinamool Congress swept this year’s panchayat elections except in some backward districts of the state such as Bankura, Purulia, West Midnapore and Jhargram.