Stage set for West Bengal panchayat elections tomorrow
Kolkata: After a protracted legal battle, the much-awaited panchayat polls are all set to be held on Monday in West Bengal amid tight security. The polls will be the last major elections in the state before the next year’s Lok Sabha polls.
Political parties are viewing the panchayat polls as a warm up match ahead of 2019 general elections.
Polling will begin at 7 am on Monday and end at 5 pm. The counting will take place on 17 May.
The run-up to the single-phase panchayat polls was marked by intense campaigning. The ruling Trinamool Congress was engaged in a bitter war of words with the opposition BJP, Congress and the Left Front over the violence that erupted during the filing of nominations for the polls.
The opposition had accused the ruling TMC of letting loose a reign of terror during the nomination process. The TMC rubbished the allegations, saying the opposition did not have a mass base and ware trying to evade the polls.
The filing of nominations, which was held from 2 to 9 April and then again on an extended date on 23 April, was marked by violence and clashes between the ruling TMC and opposition parties that led to several deaths.
Although top leaders of all parties campaigned for the polls, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee refrained from it. She appealed to the people to vote in favour of the development ushered in by her government.
According to West Bengal SEC (State Election Commission) officials, of the 48,650 seats in 3,358 gram panchayats, 16,814 were uncontested and of the 9,217 seats in 341 panchayat samitis, 3,059 were uncontested. In the 20 zilla parishads, 203 of the 825 seats were uncontested, the SEC said.
According to the SEC officials, Monday’s elections will be held in 621 zilla parishads and 6,157 panchayat samitis, besides 31,827 gram panchayats. Around 1,500 security personnel from Assam, Odisha, Sikkim and Andhra Pradesh are in the state to reinforce security arrangements for the polls. They will aid around 46,000 personnel of the state police and 12,000 of the Kolkata Police, while the state government would use close to 2,000 security personnel from the departments of excise, prison and forests in manning the booths, an SEC official said.
Security forces on Sunday conducted route marches in various parts of the state as part of security arrangements.
The election this time witnessed an unprecedented legal tussle between the SEC, state government, ruling TMC and the opposition BJP, Congress and the Left Front.
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