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22 Apr 2018

Monday date for nomination.... Fresh poll roster yet to be fixed

TT, Calcutta: The Bengal election commission told representatives of political parties on Saturday that four hours on Monday would be set aside for the filing of nominations, but it was silent on the key question of rescheduling the panchayat polls.

State government representatives who met Bengal election commissioner A.K. Singh on Saturday said he "refused" to discuss the poll dates right away. Singh, they said, was not prepared to talk about it before Monday.

"There was no discussion on the poll dates. The only thing finalised is that nominations can be filed on Monday," said Saurav Das, the officer on special duty in the panchayat department.

The commission issued a notification on Saturday evening saying willing candidates can file nominations at the offices of BDOs and SDOs between 11am and 3pm on Monday.

The scrutiny of the nominations will be done on April 25 and the last date for withdrawal of candidature is April 28.

Before meeting the government's representatives, commissioner Singh met leaders of major political parties contesting the elections, seeking their inputs on the extension of the nomination phase and suggestions on the poll dates.

The CPM and the BJP demanded adequate arrangements for filing of nominations by all willing Opposition candidates. They also urged the commission to ensure that candidates are not forcibly pulled out of the poll process.

All Opposition parties opposed the ruling Trinamul's view that the panchayat polls could, if necessary, be held in a single phase, but it has to be ahead of the month of Ramadan starting in mid-May.

"We don't have any particular preference of dates, but the elections cannot be held in one phase," said CPM state secretariat member Rabin Deb.

Sources said commissioner Singh made it clear to the parties that their concerns would be addressed in keeping with the spirit of the high court order.

"Singh took this stand despite repeated assurances from the ruling establishment that his position will not be affected even if the Opposition moves court again," said a source, referring to a sudden change in the approach of the poll panel chief.

"It is very clear now that the commission does not want to invite fresh legal trouble," said a source.

The poll panel chief will hold another round of meetings with the parties and the government on Monday before taking a call on the revised rural poll roster.

Calcutta High Court had on Friday quashed the state election commission's U-turn on the panchayat polls and asked it to incorporate one more day into the process for filing nominations and work out a new poll schedule, not accepting the state government's argument about the purported problems with rescheduling the poll dates, originally set for May 1, 3 and 5.

The court also ordered consultations with "all major collective stakeholders" to issue a fresh notification extending the day of the nomination process.

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