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West Bengal govt sticks to stand, to reply to SEC

Sticking to its stand on holding panchayat elections in two phases in April, West Bengal government on Saturday decided to reply to the SEC letter.

Kolkata: Sticking to its stand on holding panchayat elections in two phases in April, West Bengal government on Saturday decided to reply to the State Election Commission (SEC) letter.

It also hoped that the SEC will issue poll notification during the day itself.

"We will be replying to the SEC letter hoping that it will issue the poll notification today itself so that panchayat elections can be held on April 26 and 30 as announced by the state government," state Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee told reporters here after a meeting with state chief secretary, home secretary and the panchayat secretary.

Asked about the of the government`s reply to the poll panel, Mukherjee said, "There has been no change in our decision on conducting panchayat polls and have replied to certain queries raised by the Commission with regard to transfers of SDOs and BDOs."

Refusing to divulge the content of the SEC`s letter, the Panchayat Minister rejected the state poll panel`s suggestions of deploying para-military forces during panchayat elections in West Bengal.

"We don`t find any justification in deploying para-military forces to conduct rural polls," he said adding the notification will help the government procure forces from other states to man the polls.

Unless the Commission issued the notification, the state government cannot seek forces from other states with the Centre`s permission as per existing rules.

"We don`t approve of deploying 800 companies of para-military forces and burden ourselves with an expense of Rs 400 crore...It is absurd," the minister said.

Replying to a question, the minister said the state government will not seek any legal step on the issue.

"But if forced, we will contest the same in the court of law.

We depend on the good sense of the State Election Commission and on our expectation that the Commission will issue poll notification today itself," he said.

Defending the state government`s stand on deployment of security personnel, the minister said "Stray incidents can`t be the barometer to determine law and order situation in any state."

Denying that the state government is `firm and rigid` in its stand on the panchayat poll issue, Mukherjee said "We had a series of communication with the SEC in the recent past, changed the poll duration from one day to two days and even disbursed Rs 100 crore to it in this regard."

"As nodal head of the panchayat department, I announced the notification, but subsequent responsibilities rest on the Commission," he added.