Panchayat Poll is knocking at the door in West Bengal. But the Election Commission, is locked in a dispute with the Mamata Banerjee-led state government over the scheduling and deployment of central paramilitary troopers for the coming Panchayat polls, of delaying the elections. Meera Pandey Versus Mamata Banerjee war may go a long way and even cause constitutional crisis in the state; while only the other day Mamata government dismissed reports of conflict with Election Commission. They told that all information about the differences were simply the cock and bull stories of the media. Now the cat is out the bag. Both are now washing their dirty linen in public- one openly blaming the other.
The Election Commission’s War against State Government stand on Panchayat Polls may cause a big turmoil and create a topsy turvy situation. West Bengal is now waiting for a big bang but things may end in a whimper. Both the Election Commission and the State Government are flexing their muscles. Both sides are powerful and neither of these two is ready to bend. It is better to break than bend. T.N.Seshan at the centre, no other Election Commissioner at the state level attempted to exert its supremacy in such a way as the present Chief Election Commissioner Meera Pandey is doing it this time.
The Mamata Banerjee government is sharpening its own axe to squash away the Election Commission’s objection on various issues for holding the Panchayat poll according to their calculations. The state election commission has sought 800 companies of central paramilitary troopers, a suggestion that has not found favour with the Banerjee government. However, Mukehrjee seemed to have softened this tone on the issue, saying there was no guarantee that the state will get 800 companies of paramilitary forces if it asked for. Trinamool general secretary Mukul Roy alleged that letters penned by the panel were being drafted in the office of a rival political party. Roy also accused the state poll panel of delaying the elections. The opposition on the other hand accused the government of attempts to create a constitutional crisis so that the polls are not held on time. In spite of the meetings with the Governor, there is a very big question mark on the panchayat polls schedule announced by the government It is now found difficult to hold the maiden phase of the elections April 26 as scheduled. The Trinamool and the state poll panel, which conducts the elections to local bodies like the panchayats and the civic bodies, have for months locked horns over the panchayat polls.
Never in the past, the State Government went to such confrontation. In 2010, the tenure of the present Election Commission has been extended for six years. Quite naturally, there is no alternative to the Election Commission except if the Panchayat Elections are postponed and Administrators are appointed. In that case , the constitutional violation may occur and the state government will have to face scathing criticism from the opposition which has already described it ‘autocratic’ and ‘undemocratic’. The Trinamool government which boasts of its being the government of ‘Ma, Mati, Manush’ will face a severe jolt if the Panchayat election is not held and power is concentrated in the hand of the Administrator loyal to the State Government.Meetings of State Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee, with M.K. Narayanan and Chief Minister Banerjee during the day have failed literally.
Nobody knows for certain what will happen if a fresh notification on the rural polls is issued. Can a state government really defy the Election Commission in this way?The Mamata Banerjee government does not agree to suggestions given by the commission which stressed the need for deployment of central paramilitary troopers. Central force deployment for panchayat polls will cost the state Rs 350 crore. They think that there is no requirement of central forces. Subrata Mukherjee and Mukul Roy have both scented a conspiracy in the Election Commission’s v recommendation to delay the polls. It is explained as a step to defer the defeat of these opposition parties as the support for them, namely, the support for the CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist) and the Congress has sharply declined.
According to the Trinamul leaders, the erstwhile LF government had extended the tenure of the state election commission from three to six years with ulterior motives, in 2010, when an imminent political change in the state was quite perceptible. Roy also ruled out a role for the governor in the ongoing deadlock.
The Congress hit out against the state government, by voicing concern about the possibility of a constitutional crisis".
However, Mukul Roy ruled out the possibility of Governor’s rule in the state. He expects the Governor M.K. Narayanan to play an impartial role in the ongoing deadlock. Actually, he wants tacit support of the Governor to defy the Election Commission. The governor has been playing an increasingly pro-active role in a bid to find a solution to the stalemate. He has already held two rounds of talks with the state election commission chief, and summoned state Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee and senior bureaucrats at the Raj Bhavan.
But the Trinamool Congress continued to attack the Election Commission for favouring the Left Front and deliberately trying to defer the upcoming rural polls to save it from "an inevitable defeat". The state government had made all preparations for the panchayat (rural body) polls in February, but for some unexplained reasons the State Election Commission deferred the polls from February. All TMC leaders are now dancing to this tune of Mukul Roy. While the commission wants a three-phase voting and deployment of central paramilitary forces, the state government is pitching for a two-phase poll by pressing into service only the state police personnel. They don’t want to deploy the Central para-military force.