Bengal civic polls: State sits on poll observers list

By bappaditya paul

West Bengal government is yet to provide the State Election Commission (SEC) a list of senior officers who could be deployed as poll observers during the forthcoming civic elections in the state even as the nomination process for Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) polls began Tuesday.

Bengal state headquarters Nabanna
Bengal state headquarters Nabanna

Sources at the state poll panel said that they had written to the state government over a month ago asking for a list of 170 officers in the rank of joint secretary and above, but was yet to get a response.

The West Bengal Municipal Elections Rules stipulate that the poll observers should be present in their assigned municipal constituencies one or two days before the last day of filing nominations. While for KMC polls, the last day for nomination is 23 March; 30 March is the likely nomination deadline for another 91 civic bodies where the polls are tentatively scheduled for 25 April.

Bengal State Election Commission office on Rawdon Street in Kolkata.
Bengal State Election Commission office on Rawdon Street in Kolkata.

“The moment it became clear that the civic polls would be held in April, we immediately wrote to the state personnel and administrative reforms (PAR) department on 5 February asking for the list of officers. This is because we need time to assess the suitability of each and every officer before deploying them as poll observers,” said a senior official at the SEC.

Upon receiving the list and completing the suitability assessment, the poll panel is required to detail the officers on their role and functions as poll observers and only then they could be assigned to specific municipal constituencies. But with the state government sitting over the matter, the poll panel is wary about completing the process well in time.

Bengal State Election Commissioner Sushanta Ranjan Upadhyay
Bengal State Election Commissioner Sushanta Ranjan Upadhyay

The State Election Commissioner Mr Susanta Ranjan Upadhaya said this afternoon that they were now planning to take up the matter “at the higher level in the government.”

Asked why they were not sending the list of officers to the poll panel, state PAR secretary Manoj Agarwal maintained that they have already provided a list of eight IAS officers and the remaining ones were being processed. Interestingly, the SEC has sought 30 observers for the KMC polls alone.

“In all, the Commission has asked for over a hundred officers but we also need to man the regular administrative functions. Notwithstanding the constraints, we are processing the matter and the list of officers will be provided to them soon,” Mr Agarwal said.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 18 March 2015.)


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