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11 May 2018

Contest of claims on uncontested seat order Ruling cheers rivals, leaves TMC unfazed

TT, Calcutta: The Supreme Court's order to withhold the results in 34 per cent of the panchayat seats that have gone uncontested cheered the Opposition while Trinamul and the government claimed the curbs "would not significantly impact" the election process.

The "victories" in the 20,076 of the total 58,692 seats across the three tiers of the panchayat system will now be on hold at least till the next hearing in the apex court on July 3.

The Opposition claimed the verdict had gone in its favour on two counts. First, the apex court did not reject its claim that the "terror" unleashed by ruling party cadres had prevented rival candidates from filing nominations in the 34.2 per cent seats.

Second, the court directed the state election commission to ensure free and fair polls, prompting the Opposition to claim this as an acknowledgement that all was not well with the process.

"The Supreme Court order made it clear that everything was not going well, a fact we have been trying to establish," said CPM central committee member Rabin Deb.

BJP state general secretary Pratap Banerjee echoed Deb and said the onus of holding free and fair polls is now on the poll panel and the government.

"Any violation or violence during the poll process would allow us to knock the doors of the Supreme Court," said Banerjee.

But Trinamul leaders believe the verdict will not significantly impact the election process. "Formation of boards in all three (panchayat) tiers cannot be done before August 20 as rural boards cannot be dismantled before completion of their full five-year tenure. So putting on hold the results of those seats, which have gone uncontested anyway, till early July would hardly create any hurdle in the process," said Trinamul secretary-general and minister Partha Chatterjee.

Officials in the panchayat department also felt that since the boards can only be formed after August 20, there was enough time to implement apex court's final order on the uncontested seats. The order is expected before August 20.

A section of the officials, however, expressed concern over holding polls in those seats where nominations were filed online.

"The apex court order on restraining the poll panel from announcing the results is restricted only to seats where the ruling party has won uncontested. But some online nominations were filed in seats where there is a contest. As the fate of these online nominations will be decided later, what will the poll panel do if the court considers the online nominations valid?" asked an official.

On Wednesday, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra stayed a Calcutta High Court order asking the poll panel to accept emailed nominations of 831 CPM candidates who claimed Trinamul activists had stopped them from submitting their papers.

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