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TMC wants panchayat polls on time, SEC resists

The Trinamool Congress wants the panchayat polls to be held as per schedule though the state election commission seems to be playing difficult by telling the Calcutta high court that without adequate security forces it cannot hold the polls.

TMC sources told Millennium Post that there are no precedents for holding local panchayat elections with the help of Central forces. ‘We are in favour of holding the panchayat polls on time. We do have enough police forces. Rescheduling will be tough since monsoon current will get stronger with time’, said a Trinamool MP.

The reason cited by the SEC is that the Centre has expressed its inability to spare central forces for the polls owing to commitments in rain-devastated Uttarakhand. The SEC told a division bench comprising Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Joymalyo Bagchi that availability of forces from the state government was ‘hopelessly inadequate’ and said that it cannot take the responsibility of holding the elections without adequate forces.

Appearing for the central government, counsel S S Sarkar submitted that owing to the massive natural calamity in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh for which central forces were being used for rescue and relief operations and other reasons, it would not be possible for the Centre to spare its forces.
He stated that central forces were also in deployment for Amarnath Yatra in Jammu and Kashmir, to tackle militancy in Assam, law and order problem owing to Telangana agitation in Andhra Pradesh and anti-Maoist operations in different states.

Sarkar submitted that holding of local polls was a state responsibility and that central forces were not used for that purpose.He also claimed that the state government has a large number of forces of its own, including 42 battalions of CAPF, two of IRB and 20 battalions of State Armed Police, which can be used for the purpose of conducting the elections.

The West Bengal government had written to the Centre earlier seeking 300 companies of central forces but the Centre has expressed its inability to provide the forces.

Appearing for the state, Advocate General Bimal Chatterjee submitted that the SEC’s demand for central forces was a novel situation and it has not happened before.He said in 2003 or the last panchayat elections in the state in 2008, central forces were not used. ‘The SEC is behaving in such a manner that it is not inclined to hold the election,’ Chatterjee said.

The bench then asked the counsel for central government to come back after the court recess with instruction from the Centre about providing central forces for the rural polls. ‘All depends on what the court decides finally’, said a TMC MP.
Nandini Guha

Nandini Guha

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