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8 Jul 2018

Plan B for panchayats

TT, Calcutta: The Mamata Banerjee government is readying a contingency plan of putting administrators at the helm of the rural bodies in areas that threw up uncontested winners in the May panchayat polls.

"The Supreme Court has stayed the process of notifying the names of the winners in areas where elections were not held. But the terms of the existing boards are nearing completion. Government work will stop in the absence of the boards. So a list of administrators is being prepared keeping in mind the possibility of the verdict going against us," said a source.

The case - which followed petitions from the BJP, the CPM and others alleging terror during the filing of nominations and seeking scrapping of such outcomes- is likely to come up next on August 6.

"If the Supreme Court order goes in favour of the government on August 6, we can declare candidates winners and there will be enough time to form the boards. But if the order goes against the government, there will be no option other than appointing administrators," said an officer.

Around 20,076 of the total 58,692 seats - 34 per cent - across the three tiers of the panchayat system had gone contested in the May 14 elections.

Sources said deputy magistrates posted in the SDOs' or DMs' offices could be appointed the administrators of such boards.

The standard practice is that the state election commission declares the names of winners after the rural polls and the panchayat department then issues a gazette notification.

"This (the notification) gives the winners a legal status to claim their right to form the boards," said an official.

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