The West Bengal state government and State Election Commission (SEC) are once again on the verge of a clash over difference in opinion regarding the completion of forthcoming panchayat votes in the state.Sources at Nabanna, the state secretariat, said that there was a difference in opinion between the two as far as number of phases of the poll process was concerned.While the state government wanted the election to be completed in a single phase across the state, officials from the state elections commission had reasoned that there were many stumbling blocks. The main impediment would be lack of polling officers and vehicles required to complete it in one day. There would also be a dearth of armed police to be deputed in all booths.In 2013, the state and SEC were at loggerheads over the same issue and the tussle required the intervention of the Supreme Court. At the end, voting was conducted over five phases with the help of Central forces. At that time, the apex court had said that it was not mandatory that every time the poll process would have to be done in five phases.This year, the SEC wants to complete it in three phases – North Bengal in the first phase, Junglemahal areas in the second phase and districts in south Bengal other than the Junglemahal area in the third phase. SEC also intends to end the election process by May 16. SEC sources said that initial preparation for the three-tier panchayat election was complete.On March 6, the final notification regarding reservation of seats would be issued and any day after at least 42 days after that the poll process can be done. SEC had sent two letters to the state panchayat department for settling on the dates and state panchayat department had sent the letter to Nabanna but there had not been any reply from the state secretariat so far.SEC is waiting for the reply because according to the norms the date has to be settled upon in consultation with the state government but since there had not been any reply from the state so far, SEC officials said that they could be heading for another clash. State government sources also said that the government was not in favour of bringing in Central forces for the panchayat elections.
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