Bengal BJP releases poll manifesto, promises pro-people panchayat

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Under intense pressure from the Mamata Banerjee Government to complete rural poll process before the onset of Ramadan, the Bengal State Election Commission on Thursday announced single-phased Panchayat elections on May 14, opening up yet another possibility of judicial intervention. "The panchayat election will be held on May 14", a spokesman of the SEC told newsmen here. Re-polling, if required, will be held on May 16.

On the other hand, West Bengal state committee secretary Biman Bose said that the SEC did not hear the grievances of the Opposition parties as asked by the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, after scrutiny of nominations, it emerged on Thursday that the BJP has filed nominations to contest in 34,866 of 58,692 seats to which polling will take place, followed by the CPM-led Left Front, which has fielded 25,256 candidates. "Lives, democratic rights, democratic space, Constitutional machinery and freedom are not safe anymore in the state", the memorandum read.

As per an announcement by the State Election Commission (SEC) on 31 March, the dates for the three-phase polls were 1 May, 3 May and 5 May, with the last date of nomination being 9 April.

The notification, which had referred to the apex court order, however, was withdrawn by the SEC on April 10 morning. "BJP members who filed their nominations have been intimidated, attacked with weapons, bombed, bludgeoned, knifed and even killed", the memorandum said.

Though Opposition BJP, CPI (M) and the Congress were yet to disclose their next step privately their leaders wondered how the same Commission which had earlier announced a three-phased poll could shrink the electoral exercise into a one-phased notwithstanding the massive violence during nomination stage that saw opposition parties taking judicial recourse.

The SEC and TMC had challenged the petitions claiming they were not maintainable before the high court as the election process has started. But for such an alliance to work, the Congress has to be more accommodative and "willing to let go", the West Bengal chief minister had said.

Rahul Sinha said that during the meeting with Rajnath Singh, they asked him to intervene into the matter.

He said in West Bengal everybody, including former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, is demanding Article 356 be imposed in the state in the wake of incidents of violence. "We will not comment on that as it is an autonomous body", she said.

"The court's order should be considered as a reprimand for the Mamata Banerjee government".

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