By bappaditya paul
The Opposition political parties have hit out at the State Election Commission (SEC) for keeping mum over the state government’s fresh move to defer the civic polls further. They opine that the poll panel should approach the Calcutta High Court afresh to ensure that the long-pending polls were held soon without further delay. The SEC and the state government had in September agreed before the High Court that the long overdue elections to 10 of the 17 civic bodies in the state would be held by 31 January. But now the state municipal affairs department has told the poll panel in writing that the government was in favour of holding the polls in April.
“Both the SEC and the government are answerable to the High Court. But if the government is now deviating from what it had promised in September, the SEC must approach the HC afresh, as it was the poll panel that had moved the court seeking timely elections,” the state BJP president Mr Rahul Sinha said. “The fact of the matter is, Mamata Banerjee government is scared of facing any elections until 2016 and is resorting to one delaying tactics after another.” CPI-M leader Mr Rabin Deb said that the poll panel’s silence on the matter was undesirable and that a Left delegation would meet the SEC in next two-three days to urge it to become proactive. “The repeated deferment of civic polls is a gross violation of the Article 243 of the Constitution and the provisions of the West Bengal Municipal Elections Act. The absence of elected bodies is also affecting civic services with the poor being at the receiving end in particular,” Mr Deb said.
“We had urged the SEC in the recent past to play its Constitutional mandate, that is, holding timely elections to all panchayats and civic bodies; we would soon meet the poll panel again. Since the SEC was a party in the High Court case, it should approach the Court again to scuttle the state government’s fresh delaying tactics,” the CPI-M leader said. Speaking in the same vein, Pradesh Congress president Mr Adhir Ranjan Choudhury said that the SEC was not playing the desired role vis-à-vis confronting the state government to resist further delay in civic polls. “The poll panel should play a more proactive role as it is empowered by the Constitution. Timely elections are a basic prerequisite to a healthy democracy and the Constitutional bodies such as the SEC have the responsibility to ensure that it happens,” Mr Choudhury said.
The 10 civic bodies elections to which were to be held by 31 January are among a group of 17 civic bodies whose term ended in June this year. Instead of holding elections, the state government since then has been running the civic bodies by appointing bureaucrats and Trinamul MLAs as administrators.
The previous State Election Commissioner Mrs Mira Pande had moved the High Court seeking its intervention for conducting the polls.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 23 December 2014.)