Kolkata: The state election commission, late Monday evening, extended the deadline for filing nominations for West Bengal panchayat elections till 3pm on Tuesday, in light of the disruptions and violence that certain candidates faced while filing their nominations.
“Some political parties wanted to submit nomination papers today at the office of the state election commission, which cannot be done as per law," said the state election commission in the notification declaring the extension of deadline.
The BJP had asked for extension of time for filing of nominations, citing violence and other means of obstruction. The Supreme Court declined to intervene and directed the state election commission to appropriate action in the matter.
West Bengal panchayat elections in the state are to be held in three phases from 1 May to 5 May, with the votes to be counted on 8 May. Elections are to be held to 48,650 gram panchayat seats, 9,217 panchayat samiti seats and 825 zilla parishad seats. There are, in all, 50.8 million voters in the state.
In every panchayat election in the state since 2003, thousands of seats have been won uncontested by the ruling party.
It appears that the total number of uncontested seats this time will exceed the record high of 2003, when as many as 6,800 seats were won uncontested by Left parties led by the CPM.
In the last West Bengal panchayat elections in 2013, opposition parties could not field candidates in 6,274 or 10.66% of seats, which the Trinamool Congress won uncontested.
The figure this time around will exceed 2003, said an election analyst, who asked not to be identified. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had asked her party workers to make sure that the opposition is routed in the panchayat elections this year, he said, adding that Trinamool Congress leaders took this as a call to weed out the opposition across the state.
It was, however, initially expected that Banerjee and her party will show restraint in view of her national political ambitions, the analyst said. Lately, she has been looking to take centre stage in national politics by building a coalition against the BJP for the 2019 general election. It was expected that she would make sure that questions are not raised about her governance, he added.
Priyanka Mittal from New Delhi contributed to this story.