(Eds: Updating, combining related series) Kolkata/New Delhi, Apr 10 (PTI) In a U-turn, the West Bengal State Election Commission today withdrew the extended deadline for filing nominations for next month’s panchayat elections even as the opposition parties alleged that it buckled under pressure from the ruling Trinamool Congress.
State Election Commissioner A K Singh cancelled the poll panel’s order yesterday which had extended the deadline for filing nominations by a day till today, sources in the commission said.
Opposition parties — the BJP, the CPI (M) and the Congress — alleged that the SEC was forced by the TMC to cancel its order extending the deadline.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court agreed to hear tomorrow a plea of the BJP against the SEC decision to recall its order.
The West Bengal unit of the BJP moved the apex court hours after the state poll panel recalled its yesterday’s decision.
The Calcutta High Court also passed an interim stay on the SEC’s order.
State BJP leader Pratap Bandopadhyay moved the high court challenging the cancellation.
Justice Subrata Talukdar heard the petitioner and his opponent in his chamber, following resistance by lawyers in view of the ongoing ceasework.
Emerging from the judge’s chamber, petitioner Bandopadhyay said the court has passed an interim injunction on SEC’s cancellation of its yesterday’s order and said the matter would be heard again on April 23.
All parties involved in the matter have been asked to file affidavits stating their position on the matter.
Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee, who appeared for the party, said though the court has passed a stay on the order, it has refused to interfere with the election process.
The new notification issued by the SEC said, “It appears that there was no specific direction by the Supreme Court of India for extension of the nomination date. Therefore on perusal of all the papers and considering all the points, the Commission hereby recalls the said order and therefore rescinds the (previous) order.” Though the last day for filing nominations for the rural polls slated for May 1, 3 and 5 was till yesterday, the SEC had extended it till 3 pm today on complaints that the opposition candidates had been prevented from filing papers.
According to the new notification, the SEC received two letters, one from the special secretary of the state government and another from the Trinamool Congress, citing legal infirmities in the previous order of the Commission.
BJP state president Dilip Ghosh alleged that the SEC was “forced” by the TMC to withdraw its previous order.
“I have doubt whether the SEC can continue till next month’s panchayat elections. Earlier, a State Election Commissioner had to resign,” he said, adding that the BJP is ready for the panchayat polls.
He was referring to the resignation of S R Upadhyay who had quit before counting of votes in 2015 after a violence marred civic poll in the state.
CPI (M) leader in the state assembly Sujan Chakrabarty alleged that the SEC has “no freedom and the state ministers have put pressure on it”.
Left workers staged demonstration in front of the SEC office here protesting against the withdrawal of the order extending the deadline. They shouted slogans against SEC and the TMC government.
Criticising the SEC, state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury wondered whether the commission has any authority.
Denying the charges, TMC leader and MP Kalyan Banerjee said opposition party leaders had put pressure on the SEC to give the “illegal order” extending the deadline.
“Somersault under pressure of ruling party and the ministers? Their victory bike rally to greet the Commissioner shall not succeed to throttle the voice of the people’s protest,” CPI(M) state secretary Surya Kanta Mishra tweeted.
Later in the afternoon, BJP Mahila Morcha state president Locket Chatterjee led a protest outside the SEC officer with brooms and mops and alleged that the SEC has turned into a back office of the TMC.
A huge police contingent had cordoned off the area since early morning.
Several BJP and CPI(M) activists were detained when they tried to break the police cordons during the protest rally.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.