People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 27

July 07, 2013


Apex Court Indicts West Bengal Govt

Dilly dallying on Panchayat Exposed


From our Special

Correspondent in Kolkata


AFTER months of uncertainty, West Bengal is going to have five-phase panchayat elections from July 11, 2013, after Supreme Court turned down the plea of the state government to reschedule it further. In a desperate bid to defer elections, the state government started confronting the State Election Commission (SEC) and then even the courts from early January. The government refused to consult and decide the schedule of elections and security arrangements for months. Almost every advice from the SEC was rejected. Without paying heed to basic Constitutional compulsion, the state government even announced the schedule unilaterally and in an utterly motivated manner. Intervention from the SEC led to a lengthy court battle. The state government refused to comply with consecutive orders from the Calcutta High Court and did not spell out the security arrangements for the polls even before a week, forcing the SEC to seek the direction of the apex court.


On June 28, the Supreme Court clearly declared a fresh five phase schedule, ordered both for state and central forces and distributed the forces according to phases. The schedule included some days during the Ramzan festival. The state government filed a review petition and another petitioner also sought postponement. On July 2, the Supreme Court turned down the plea and squarely blamed the state administration for dilly dallying and creating a Constitutional crisis. 


A bench of Justices A K Patnaik and Ranjan Gogoi said it had respect for religious sentiments of the Muslims. But, the bench clarified, that would not sway it from strict adherence to Constitutional mandate for expeditious elections to panchayats, preferably before the expiry of their tenure. The five-year term of all panchayats had expired in May and June.


The Mamata Banerjee government's discomfiture at the presence of central forces during panchayat polls came out in open when senior advocate Kalyan Banerjee informed the court that the state was government was ready to provide 50,000 security forces for each phase.


The bench rejected the offer and said: "If you (Banerjee government) had wanted the elections in time, you could have given requisite forces as per the order of the (Calcutta) High Court instead of dilly dallying for a long time."


The opposition in the state, including Left Front, was alleging precisely that the state government has no intention of conducting elections in proper time. The direction of the apex court thoroughly exposed the ulterior motive of TMC government. It, in fact, came as an indictment of the state government.


The bench in the apex court also said that Article 243E of the Constitution mandated that elections to panchayats must be held before their five-year term expired. "Should we bypass this Constitutional provision? We have to ensure smooth elections to panchayats as early as possible and as soon as central forces were available. Can we overlook the fact that the term of the panchayats have already expired?" the bench asked.

Biman Basu, Left Front chaiman, has welcomed the order of the Supreme Court. He said that the state government is 100 per cent responsible for the stalemate and it is because of them that the schedule coincided with Ramzan festival. The voters will definitely face some problems for this and the rainy season that has already set in. If the state government paid heed to the directions of the High Court on May 10, this untoward situation would not have arisen at all. Basu alleged that the Trinamool Congress does not want to continue with the democratic decentralisation initiated by the Left Front government. Instead, they want to shift power and authority to bureaucracy. That is why they consciously delayed and tried to defer the elections.


Polls are to be held in the districts Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore on July 11; East Midnapore, Hooghly and Burdwan on July 15; Howrah, South and North 24 Parganas on July 19; Nadia, Murshidabad, Malda and Birbhum on July 22 and at Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Uttar Dinajpur and Dakshin Dinajpur on July 25.