(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 20, 2008
Seventh Panchayat Election Poll Schedule Announced
THE West Bengal state election commission has announced the dates and schedules for this year’s Panchayat polls. The elections would be held on three days, viz. May 11, 14, and 18, 2008. The election notification has been issued on April 9 and was followed by the schedule of nomination, scrutiny, and final listing and publication of the names of eligible candidates.
It may be recalled the Bengal Left Front government asked of the state election commission for fixing the dates and schedules for the upcoming rural polls due this year. Bengal is one of the very few states where elections at every level of the Constitutional mandate are held with punctual regularity. The Panchayat votes are held every five years for the three operationalised tiers of the rural bodies: Gram Panchayats, Panchayat Samities, and Zillah parishads.
As per the schedule announced, the last date for the submission of nomination papers through the due process is April 16, 2008. The submitted nomination papers would be scrutinised by the Panchayati officialdom within April 18.
Over 51,000 winning candidates will emerge out of the polls – a massive tribute to decentralised rural governance covering more than 38,000+ villages and rural areas. The last time the Panchayats went to the polls five years back in 2003, the Bengal Left Front had absolute majority in 15 Zillah Parishads (ZP). There was a vast voting pool of no less than 3,38,11,737 men and women for the 2003 Panchayat elections.
There was a hung ZP at Maldah – where a subsequent and very opportunistic right-right alliance of the Pradesh Congress, the BJP, and the Trinamul Congress somehow cobbled together a wafer-thin majority to misrule the board and making the people suffer – ever since. The Pradesh Congress scraped through to garner the Murshidabad ZP – and another spate of misrule has followed quite expectedly.
This time around, there would be no less than 41,513 seats being fought for in 35,688 Gram Panchayats. There are 8798 seats at the tier of the Panchayat Samities. The ZP seats total 748. Voting will be done through ballot papers. The total number of voters this year is 3,68,72,222. The figure represents an increase of 3060485.
The Panchayat Act and concerned regulations would be in operation everywhere in the state except in the Darjeeling district. Bengal CPI(M) secretary and Bengal Left Front chairman Biman Basu is confident of the LF getting more seats and more votes (which is very important since it translates into an index of mass support) especially with Left unity strongly established everywhere in the run up to the elections – something which was not so in 2003, causing the Left Front per se to lose votes and seats — despite the massive nature of the popular win.