Bengal panchayat polls: Why Opposition feels it has won the first battle against Trinamool

The Calcutta HC has refused to interfere with the court's previous single bench order staying the poll process.

 |  4-minute read |   18-04-2018
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When BJP leaders recently flashed victory signs while posing in front of TV cameras, satisfaction was writ large on their faces. More than anything else what was unmistakable was a sense of gloating over a court verdict, a baby step though, but something which gave them a relief for the time being.

The victory being glorified is the Calcutta High Court division bench's decision to revert the on-going legal tussle over panchayat polls to the single bench, which had earlier ordered to withhold the nomination and poll process till it heard the issues today (April 18) and sorted things out.

The Left leaders and even the state Congress faced the camera and spoke profusely about having achieved a moral victory. Victory has become such a rarity in the Opposition camp that anything going in their favour, no matter how short-lived it is, gives immense hope, above everything else.

The BJP, the Left and the Congress have filed petition in the single bench against the State Election Commission for withdrawing its order on extending the period of nomination in less than 12 hours after issuing it, allegedly under pressure from the leaders of the ruling party.

Challenging the single bench order, the government and the Election Commission both filed an appeal before the division bench.

bengal-body_041818024512.jpgBJP leader Mukul Roy at a demonstration to protest against the violence during panchayat poll nomination filing, in Kolkata. (Credit: PTI photo)

The division bench refused to hear the case and wanted the single bench to resolve the case. The outcome of the order is being welcomed with open arms by the Opposition because the court has refused to entertain the appeal.

Hell broke loose after the dates of panchayat elections was announced almost arbitrarily by the SEC in consultation with the state government. The Opposition protested against the election schedule, the violation in following the customary gaps in the electioneering process.

The SEC did not relent. Then the Opposition alleged against large-scale violence and atrocities of the ruling party in stopping other political parties to be in the electoral fray. There were procession, sit-in-demonstration, gherao and week-long protest for taking action against the ruling party.

Meanwhile, when the SEC decided to give a window and stretched the period of nomination by another day, the former scrapped its own order within 12 hours, even though political parties were gearing up with the nomination.

That the SEC's office is also not free from the clout and control of the ruling Trinamool Congress became evident. The process of protracted litigation started then.

In the current situation of argument and counter-argument what looks to be uncertain is the panchayat polls, much to the dismay of the Trinamool Congress, since the party wanted a hurried election, giving minimum time to opposition parties to set their houses in order.

The poll is getting delayed for sure, at least it is not happening on May 1, 3 and 5, as scheduled earlier. And the Opposition is happy. It is a victory of small measure, but victory nonetheless.

The Opposition wanted the poll to be postponed till normalcy returned and the political parties in Opposition got opportunity to contest the polls. That has happened. Moreover, the Opposition's demand for central forces to conduct the election is another contentious issue that needs to be ironed out.

As of now the ball is in the court and it has been set rolling, but till when nobody knows. The term of the panchayats expires in August, and the court is planning to wrap up things as early as possible. The hearing of the case in the single bench will continue tomorrow (April 19), which means the stay on the election process will continue.

For the past six years, the space for Opposition politics in Bengal has been shrinking, courtesy the policy of decimation followed by the ruling Trinamol Congress.

With MLAs being wooed and won over to the ruling party, and the Opposition always at the receiving end in the political circle, the latest victory meant a lot.

At least it has been established that a joint, unified and concerted Opposition can make the mountain move.

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Romita Datta Romita Datta

The writer is Associate Editor, India Today.

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