Voting begins for Panchayat polls in West Bengal
The voting for the much-awaited single-phase Panchayat polls has begun today across West Bengal amid tight security. "The polling started at 7 am in the morning," an official said. It is the last major polls in the state before the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. The polling will end at 5 pm and the counting will take place on May 17. Here's more.
After a protracted legal battle in the Kolkata High Court and the Supreme Court involving the State Election Commission, the ruling Trinamool Congress, and the opposition parties, the three-tier Panchayat polls in West Bengal is being held.
The run-up to the panchayat polls was marked by intense campaigning. Although top leaders of all parties campaigned for the polls, TMC supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee refrained from it. The ruling Trinamool Congress was engaged in a bitter war of words with the opposition Congress, Left Front and BJP over the violence that erupted during the filing of nominations for the polls.
The opposition had accused TMC of letting loose a reign of terror during the nomination process. TMC rubbished the allegations and said the opposition parties are trying to evade the polls. The filing of nominations, held from April 2-9 and then again on April 23, was marked by violence and clashes between the ruling TMC and opposition parties that led to several deaths.
According to West Bengal State Election Commission (SEC) sources, today's elections are being held in 621 Zilla Parishads, 6,157 Panchayat Samitis, and 31,827 Gram Panchayats. 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.
Around 1,500 security personnel from Assam, Odisha, Sikkim, and Andhra Pradesh are in the state to reinforce security for the polls. They are aiding around 46,000 personnel of the WB Police and 12,000 of the Kolkata Police. The state government is using close to 2,000 security personnel from the departments of excise, prison, and forests in manning the booths, an SEC official said.