Kolkata, May 14: Elections to the rural local bodies are being conducted across 20 districts of West Bengal. According to the State Election Commission (SEC), polls are underway in 621 zilla parishads, 6,157 seats in 341 panchayat samiti seats, besides 31,827 seats in 3,385 gram panchayats. Stay tuned here for all the live news and updates related to the elections which are underway.
The SEC had earlier notified polling in over 58,500 rural seats across the state. However, elections could not be conducted in 203 zilla parishads, 3,059 seats in panchayat samitis and 16,814 gram panchayat seats due to no Opposition candidate in the fray. The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) was declared winner unopposed on April 23. However, the Supreme Court, in the past week, restrained the SEC from issuing a notification on results from the seats where no elections will be held.
The state government has deployed 46,000 personnel of the West Bengal police and 12,000 of the Kolkata Police to man over 58,500 booths where voting was scheduled to be conducted. Additional 1,500 security personnel were also sought from neighbouring Assam, Odisha, Sikkim and Andhra Pradesh.
The run-up to the panchayat polls witnessed a trail of violence, with two deaths reported and dozens of political workers being injured.
The Opposition also took the battle to the court. The Supreme Court was first petitioned in March by the Congress and BJP, seeking central deployment of forces for the conduct of polls. The apex court, however, had struck down the appeal.
The Opposition pleaded the judiciary again in mid-April. The Calcutta High Court was petitioned by the BJP seeking countermanding of the rural elections, alleging "the ruling TMC cadres prevented the Opposition to file nominations".
Calcutta HC, taking prima facie cognizance of the violence reported, ordered the SEC to re-allow the filing of nominations till an extended date of April 23.
The Opposition moved the court again, alleging "armed TMC workers with swords" prevented the filing of nominations by their candidates in Birbhum and Malda -- the two districts where the Trinamool "won" without a contest.
The Calcutta HC directed the SEC to accept the nominations via emails. The order, however, was annulled by the Supreme Court, which instead directed the Commission to not to issue the notification of results for the uncontested seats till July 3.
Meanwhile, the results of panchayat elections from the remaining 66 per cent seats -- where the Opposition candidates are in the fray -- would be declared on May 17.