SEC, govt lock horns, stand firm

Panchayat poll date Row Minister says SEC can only suggest dates to govt.

Both the State Election Commission (SEC) and Trinamool Congress government have raised their stakes in the ongoing discord over the panchayat poll dates with both the sides on Tuesday remaining firm on their stands.

The SEC, which wants to hold the election in three phases in the presence of 800 companies of Central forces, convened a meeting of its officers and reiterated that they would go for a three-phase poll.

Meera Pandey, State Election Commissioner, said they were waiting for the reply from the state government.

The Trinamool Congress government, which wants a two-phase poll in absence of Central forces, on Tuesday asserted that it will decide the dates of the panchayat polls saying the role of the SEC is "limited to only give suggestion to the government".

Panchyat Minister Subrata Mukherjee said after Chief Minister returns from her north Bengal tour, a meeting will be convene following which the notification for the panchyat election will be declared.

"It is the state government's prerogative to decide on the dates," Mukherjee claimed when asked to comment on the ongoing controversy over the SEC's recommendation that the election be held in three phases.

"The law says the panchayat election dates will be decided by the state government in consultation with the Commission and not the other way round," he said.

The minister said that the commission had been invested with only consultative powers in this regard and not the decision-making authority. "The powers of the SEC should not be mixed up with the powers of the Election Commission of India, a constitutional body," he added.

While the Trinamool government has been pitching for two-phase polls, the SEC has recommended a three-phase poll under the supervision of Central forces.

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