STATE GOVT AGAIN POSTPONES THE POLLS TO APRIL
By bappaditya paul
It’s official now! There will be no civic poll in the state in January ~ a deadline that both the state government and the State Election Commission (SEC) had agreed to in the Calcutta High Court in September.
The state government has communicated to the SEC in writing that it now wants the long-pending elections to 10 civic bodies to be held in April, along with another 81 civic bodies including the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, whose terms are scheduled to end in June. The*** Statesman*** had on 2 December reported about such a possibility after talking to sources in the poll panel and the state government.
“We have received a letter from the state municipal affairs secretary Mr B P Gopalika dated 4 December, which stats that the government wants to further postpone the elections to the 10 civic bodies and instead hold the polls by the end of April along with 81 more,” State Election Commissioner Mr S R Upadhyay today said. “The letter says that this is to avert repeated disruptions to development activities because of the model code of conduct that comes to force with any election.”
The state government, however, is silent about the polls to Siliguri Municipal Corporation and the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad, whose terns ended in October and mid 2014, respectively.Mr Upadhyay said that the poll panel has sought legal advise from its counsel and would shortly respond to the state government. “But as far as the Calcutta High Court is concerned, our counsel has told us that we need not inform the court about the postponement; it is up to the government to decide what it wants to do. As regards the Commission, we are fully prepared to conduct the polls by the 31 January deadline.”
The ten civic bodies, elections to which were to be held by 31 January are ~ Gangarampur (South Dinajpur), Kaliagunj (Malda), Uluberia (Howrah), Egra (East Midnapore), Islampur (North Dinajpur), Mal (Jalpaiguri), Dankuni (Hooghly), Sainthia (Birbhum), Rajpur-Sonarpur (South 24-Parganas) and Haringhata (Nadia).They are among the 17 civic bodies in the state whose terms ended in July 2013 but the Mamata Banerjee government declined to hold the election in time citing summer and monsoon woes. Peeved at the government’s delaying tactics, the then State Election Commissioner Ms Mira Pande moved the High Court in June, seeking intervention. She exhausted her term mid-way into the hearing of the case.
The new poll commissioner, Mr Upadhaya, who assumed office on 21 July, took a conciliatory approach and suggested holding elections to ten of the 17 civic bodies by 31 January and the state agreed to the proposal in the High Court. The seven municipalities that were left out were the ones that the government plans to merge / upgrade into municipal corporations. They are ~ Asansol, Dum Dum, South Dum Dum, Madhyamgram, Maheshtala and Rajarhat-Gopalpur.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report was first published in The Statesman on 16 December 2014.)