Poll panel cites law to deny KMC re-poll

OPPOSITION HAD ALLEGED LARGE-SCALE IRREGULARITIES BY RULING TRINAMUL

Kolkata Municipal Corporation headquarters on SN Banerjee Road.
Kolkata Municipal Corporation headquarters on SN Banerjee Road.

By bappaditya paul

NOTWITHSTANDING THE ALLEGATIONS of large-scale irregularities in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) polls on 18 April, the West Bengal State Election Commission (SEC) has ruled out re-poll in any booths through the 144 wards in the city. 

This is even as the Bengal state election commissioner Sushanta Ranjan Upadhaya today reiterated that the KMC elections were not held “in an ideal situation and there were numerous complaints.”   

“We have received the report from the district magistrate of South 24-Parganas wherein he has stated that there were no major irregularities during the 18 April polls that necessitate a re-poll,” Mr Upadhaya said on Tuesday evening.

“After this report, there is hardly anything that the Commission can do as Sections 62 and 63 of the West Bengal Municipal Elections Act, 1994, empowers only a DM or a Municipal Returning Officer or an observer to recommend a re-poll. Hence, there will be no re-poll for KMC,” he said.

Bengal state election commissioner addressing media persons at the Kolkata Press Club. File photo.
Bengal state election commissioner addressing media persons at the Kolkata Press Club. File photo.

In civic elections, a district magistrate, by virtue of his/her position, functions as the District Municipal Election Officer (DMEO). Since Kolkata does not have a DM, the DM South 24-Parganas is entrusted with the task of holding KMC polls. 

Mr Upadhaya said that the DM has based his report on the inputs he got from the respective MROs and the Presiding Officers (PO). “The PO diaries have been forwarded to us but I have not yet gone through it personally.”     

He said that the DM’s report received today “does not fully corroborate (sic) with the complaints that the Commission had received” on the poll day and afterwards from Opposition political parties and the public alike.

Mr Upadhaya however, averted clarifying what or which parts of the complaints have been substantiated in the DM’s report and why a re-poll was not being ordered on the basis of that.        

The site on Council House Street in central Kolkata where granades were hurled targeting a Congress election camp office during the KMC polls on 18 April.
The site on Council House Street in central Kolkata where granades were hurled targeting a Congress election camp office during the KMC polls on 18 April.

“Going by the law, there is nothing that the Commission can do independent of the DM, MRO or observer reports. There is even a Supreme Court order stating that any law of the state concerned that is in force shall prevail in such matters,” the poll panel chief said. 

Mr Upadhaya on Tuesday held a meting with the Bengal Home Secretary, the DGP, IG (Law and Order), the Barrackpore Police Commissioner and the SPs of Hooghly and South 24-Parganas and reviewed the proposed security arrangements for the 25 April elections in 91 civic bodies in the state. 

The Commission has asked the administration to seal the Bangladesh border, carryout preventive arrests of suspected criminals, rein in on bike gangs and drive out outsiders from the poll-bound areas by the end of campaigning. 

This was on a day the Congress organised a protest march to the Kolkata Police headquarters Lalbazar over post-poll violence in Kolkata and the BJP served a memorandum to the SEC demanding postponement of the 25 April polls unless adequate number of Central forces were made available. 

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 22 April 2015.)

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