By bappaditya paul
EVEN BEFORE THE ELECTIONS ON 25 APRIL, West Bengal’s ruling party the Trinamul Congress on Saturday won majority in three of the 91 poll-bound civic bodies in the state as rival candidates withdrew their nominations after “being threatened by the ruling party.”
Saturday was the last day for withdrawal of nominations.
At Arambagh in Hooghly, the Trinamul has won uncontested in 16 of the 19 seats, at Tarakeswar in the same district it has got walkover in 10 of the 15 seats and at Gayeshpur in Nadia it has pocketed 17 of the 18 seats.
Bengal’s State Election Commission (SEC), however, said that till Saturday evening it had confirmation only about Arambagh; reports for Tarakeswar and Gayeshpur were awaited.
This on a day when during an all-party meet that it had convened, the SEC had to face a barrage of allegations about Trinamul Congress atrocities on Opposition party cadres and a corresponding police inaction.
The Opposition parties rejected the Trinamul’s proposal for extending the voting hours mainly over which the SEC had convened the meeting. The Opposition said that this would only give additional time to the Trinamul “to rig the polls.”
The events of the day made the state election commissioner S R Upadhaya to send an urgent communiqué to all the district magistrates instructing them to ensure that workers or candidates of no political parties are intimidated and that the police should act fast on genuine complaints.
As regards the Trinamul’s demand for extending the voting period by two hours to 5 p.m. instead of the notified 3 p.m., Mr Upadhaya said that going by the West Bengal Municipal Elections Act 1994, “it is now difficult to extend the voting hours as there is no provision in law to modify an already notified timing.”
CPI-M leader Robin Deb and BJP leader Prabhakar Tiwari alleged in the all-party meet that in several municipalities, their candidates had been forced by the Trinamul Congress to withdraw nominations and that their cadres were being attacked by the ruling party but the police were declining to register complaints.
They named Arambagh, Rishra, Seerampore, Konnagar, Bhatpara and North Dum Dum in particular.
The Opposition leaders demanded that the SEC should immediately bring in Central force and press them into area domination exercise in sensitive areas.