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SEC concerned over uncontested wins

Statesman News Service |

statesman news service 
KOLKATA, 11 JUNE: As many as 4,519 candidates for gram panchayat seats of a total of a little over 30,000 seats going to the poll in the first phase on 2 July have won uncontested and going by the trends the figure may even go up to 5,250 ~ over 15 per cent of the total, a state election commission official today said after the last date of withdrawal of nomination expired yesterday.
In all 94,350 candidates for the three tiers of gram panchayat, panchayat samiti and zilla parishad are in the fray. In the first phase election will be held in  5,792  panchayat samiti and 514 zilla parishad seats.
In the second phase the contest will be in 11,999 GP,  2,183 PS and 197 ZP seats and the figures for the third phase are 6,943 (GP), 1,265 (PS) and 114 (ZP). 
As per the break-up given by the SEC 732 panchayat samiti seats of a total of 5,792  and eight of 514 zilla parishad seats have been won uncontested. 
The commission’s secretary Tapas Ray admitted the staggering number of seats going uncontested was “indeed a matter of concern for the SEC.” The SEC, he said, had taken cognizance of the matter and would look into the reasons, including alleged intimidation and terror tactic by the ruling party.
The districts most affected by the “disconcerting trend” are Hooghly, East and West Midnapore, Burdhwan and Bankura. 
Mr Ray conceded one reason for the incidence of uncontested seats could be that the political parties cutting across ideologies found it difficult to get women candidates.
Sources in the commission said fears of violence during the polls cannot be ruled out judging the trend of the first phase.
“In the panchayat polls of 2003, around 6,800 seats in all the phases were won uncontested,” he added.
A Left Front delegation urged state home secretary Basudeb Banerjee to take action against the abduction of its candidates for the panchayat poll by alleged Trinamul Congress-backed goons in several areas when they were going to BDO offices to file nominations. 
Mr Anisur Rahaman of the CPI-M, who submitted a memorandum to the home secretary complained the police hadn’t taken action even after FIRs were lodged. “We are afraid that more such incidents would take place in next two phases of filing nomination papers also,” Mr Rahaman said. 
“Trinamul leaders, who instigated their supporters for abducting Left Front candidates, are now being guarded by security personnel as reward from the party,” said Mr Rahaman. On the other hand, he alleged, the Leader of the Opposition Dr Suryakanta Misra hadn’t got police escort and taken high risk a few days ago when he went to meet the wife of a slain Trinamul leader in Howrah to express sympathy. 
He said Trinamul won about 5,000 seats uncontested, which is over 15 per cent of the total gram panchayat seats where election will be held in the first phase. This is an ominous sign for democracy,” he said.
The LF would launch a bigger movement if this situation continues, he threatened.
Earlier, during the day, Congress leader Dr Manas Bhuniya met SEC officials and complained that his party candidates had been threatened to withdraw their nominations for the first phase.
The commission had registered a case against the Trinamul Birbhum district president Anubrata Mondal for asking his party activists not to allow rival candidates to file their nomination. A separate case has also been initiated against West Midnapore’s Pingla Officer-in-Charge Pankaj Mistry for alleged police inaction during an attack on CPI activists on 26 May.
However,  state panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee said during the day the state government was desperately trying to bring Central forces for the panchayat poll. He sought to allay fears and assured the state government would ensure free and peaceful poll. He was speaking on the sidelines of a community police programme.
“An unwarranted situation in which we would have to confront criminals enjoying the patronage of the ruling party appears to be on the cards and the state government would be responsible for it” Leader of the Opposition, Dr Surjya Kanta Mishra told the media at the CPI-M party office at Alimuddin Street.
"The state government cannot shirk its responsibilities and it should keep in mind that its power is much less than the semi-Fascist forces and the Emergency  we had stood up to and combatted" he added.
“Criminals enjoying the patronage of the ruling party are preventing our candidates from filing nominations and later pressurising them to withdraw though in 2008 rural polls half the seats were won by the then Opposition “ the Leader of the Opposition alleged. “Things have come to such a pass that a minister is trying to pass off  the recent  killing  of CPI-M leader in Burnpur, Dilip Sarkar as an intra-party feud and making statements tarnishing his image though the investigation is not yet over ,” Dr Mishra said.
“Trinamul Congress itself is a party plagued by factional feud and killings after which several next of kin of the deceased person had moved the court and got a direction for a CBI probe. It is regrettable that the state government is not taking steps following the directions of the court and the state election commission” he added.
“Law and order situation in the state is about to collapse and the actions of the state government are leading to anarchy” Left Front chairman Biman Bose said earlier. “The state government’s actions are stifling participatory democracy as the Opposition candidates are increasingly being prevented from filing nominations all over the state.” he added.