West Bengal: Stage set for Panchayat polls tomorrow amid tight-security
After a protracted legal battle, the much-awaited Panchayat polls are all set to be held tomorrow in West Bengal amid tight security. The polls will be WB's last major elections before 2019 Lok Sabha polls. So, political parties are viewing it as a warm-up match. Polling will begin at 7am and end at 5pm. The counting will take place on May 17. Here's more.
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 Left Front over the violence that erupted during the filing of nominations for the polls.
The opposition accused TMC of letting loose a reign of terror during the nomination process. TMC rubbished the allegations, saying the opposition didn't have a mass base and were trying to evade polls. The filing of nominations, which was held from April 2-9 and then again on April 23, was marked by violence and clashes between TMC and opposition parties leading to several deaths.
Although top leaders of all the parties campaigned for the polls, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee refrained from it. She only appealed to the people to vote in favor of the development ushered in by her government.
According to West Bengal SEC (State Election Commission) sources, 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 20 Zilla Parishads, 203 of the 825 seats were uncontested. According to SEC sources, tomorrow'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 WB 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 today 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.