Kolkata: After a protracted legal battle, several incidents of pre-poll violence and moving to court over security for candidates who wanted to file their nomination, the much-awaited panchayat polls is being held today in West Bengal amid tight security.
The polls are the last major elections in the state before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Political parties are viewing today's poll as a warm up match ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Over five crore people in West Bengal will vote in the panchayat polls today.
Since filing of nominations commenced on April 2, opposition parties in the state, including the CPM, BJP and Congress, claimed that most of their candidates could not file their papers due to what they called Trinamool's "terror tactics". The allegation was denied by the state's ruling party.
Here are developments to the story:
- Voting will be held between 7 am and 5 pm through ballot papers, not electronic voting machines (EVMs). Over 1.5 lakh security personnel -- almost half of them armed -- have been deployed. Nearly 1,500 of them are from other states
- Security has been a huge concern in the lead up to the rural elections. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said 14 Trinamool workers have been killed. A BJP leader claimed last week that 52 people had been killed
- On Saturday, there were incidents of sporadic violence across the state. A 30-year-old man was shot dead on Friday when some gunmen opened fire on a poll rally at Bhangar, 25 km from Kolkata
- Last week, the Calcutta High Court has ruled that the State Election Commission and state officials would be held personally liable and have to pay compensation if the loss of life and property in the panchayat election was higher than that in the 2013 poll
- Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee appealed to the people to vote in favour of the development ushered in by her government
- According to West Bengal SEC (State Election Commission) sources, of the 48,650 seats in 3,358 gram panchayats, 16,814 were uncontested and of the 9,217 seats in 341 panchayat samitis, 3,059 were uncontested. In the 20 zilla parishads, 203 of the 825 seats were uncontested, the SEC said
- According to the SEC sources, today's elections will be held in 621 zilla parishads and 6,157 panchayat samitis, besides 31,827 gram panchayats
- The Supreme Court has expressed concern that such a large percentage of seats were won by the ruling party without a contest and has stayed the notification of those results. "What bothers us is 34 per cent candidates have been elected unopposed... Elections to be held in absolute fairness," the Supreme Court has said
- Accused by the opposition of rolling back his order on extending the date of filing nominations by a day due to "threats from Trinamool", State Election Commissioner AK Singh has dismissed allegations as a "complete lie"
- The results will be declared on May 17.
(With inputs from PTI)...