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Bengal panchayat poll: SEC asks DMs to tighten security

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

The State Election Commission (SEC) on Monday directed the district magistrates to ensure safety and security of the areas around the nomination centres and impose prohibitory section 144 if required.

Mr AK Singh, commissioner, SEC, said, if required, the DM, SDO or executive magistrate can impose section 144 in the areas of nomination centres.

The decision comes following complaints lodged by BJP and Left Front leaders of stray incidents of trouble at nomination centres in North Dinajpur, Bankura, Cooch Behar and others.

A senior official said the SEC has recieved a complaint from the BJP of facing trouble in filing nomination in Kaliaganj in North Dinajpur and similar complaints were lodged by the Left Front for Haldibari in Cooch Behar and Barjora in Bankura.

Receiving such complaints, the SEC acted immediately by intervening through the DMs, the official added.

Congress leader Riju Ghosal said the SEC’s move to impose sec 144 reflects the commission has accepted there is a serious law and order problem in the state. “What benefit would imposition of prohibitory order in a single area do?” he questioned.

Leading a five-member team to the commission on Monday, Mr Ghosal demanded provision for bulk collection and submission of nomination papers instead of single-handedly.

When an Opposition member goes alone to submit a nomination paper he is sure to face attack from Trinamul goons, Mr Ghosal said and added that the Opposition should be allowed to participate in the demoncratic process.

Mr Anuj Sharma, ADG (law and order) met Mr Singh and intimated him about the availability of forces. The SEC official said talks were on with the state government over deployment of forces for peaceful elections.

The nomination filing process started on Monday and will continue till 9 April. Till this afternoon, nominations were filed by four TMC candidates and seven independent candidates.

In Nadia, 17 nominations were filed for gram panchayat and three for panchayat samity. In Alipurduar, five for gram panchayat and two for panchayat samity. No nominations were filed for zilla parishad on the first day on Monday, he said.

Earlier, the SEC had issued a notification under the Panchayat Act to conduct the panchayat polls in three phases on 1, 3 and 5 May.

Meanwhile, a Left Front delegation led by CPI-M leader Rabin Deb met the commissioner and submitted a deputation demanding free and fair panchayat polls. “The panchayat dates were announced suddenly so as to ensure that Opposition members are unable to submit nomination papers,” said Mr Deb.ss

Criticising the move to fix the nomination withdrawal date five days instead of three days after scrutiny, he alleged it was a deliberate attempt to utilise the time to threaten Opposition members.

A senior SEC official, however, ruled out the allegation saying this was done due to a technical reason. The scrutiny of nominations is on 11 April and the last date for withdrawal should have been 14 April, which is a holiday due to BR Ambedkar’s birthday. According to the norms, scrutiny and nomination withdrawal cannot be held on holidays declared under Negotiable Instruments Act (NI Act).

The next day, 15 April is a Sunday, hence the nomination withdrawal date has been fixed on 16 April.