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Big Relief For Mamata Banerjee In Supreme Court Order On Rural Body Polls

There will be no re-election for over 20,000 rural seats in Bengal that were won uncontested by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress in May, the Supreme Court said today, in a huge reprieve for the state’s ruling party.
The court, however, left room for petitions from candidates who have alleged that they were stopped from filing their nominations for the seats.

The Trinamool Congress bagged 20,178 seats without contest in the West Bengal panchayat election, which led to opposition allegations of violence and terror tactics by the ruling party. The opposition had alleged that no other candidate could file nominations to contest those seats because of violence and attacks by Trinamool Congress workers.

“Keeping in view the seriousness of allegations of nominations being stopped, Supreme Court allows individuals to take legal recourse,” the judges said, giving 30 days for such petitions.

The results for those seats, held back on court orders, can now be declared.

A re-poll would have been hugely embarrassing for the Mamata Banerjee government, which has vehemently denied opposition charges.

A special leave petition was filed by Bengal’s State Election Commission in May. Opposition parties including the CPM, the BJP and Congress had gone to the Calcutta High Court in the run-up to the panchayat polls, pleading that their candidates could not file nominations because of alleged violence by the Trinamool.

There were instances of alleged Trinamool workers on motorcycles, armed with swords, scaring aspirants away from election centres on nomination day in the West Bengal panchayat election.

The high court then ordered the State Election Commission to accept electronically filed nomination papers. But the State Election Commission challenged that in Supreme Court, which has set aside e-nominations.

In court, the CPM and the BJP raised the uncontested wins. The Supreme Court expressed shock at the huge number of seats — 34 per cent — won without contest by the Trinamool.

Elections were held in phases for 48,650 posts in gram panchayats, 825 posts in zilla parishads and 9,217 posts in panchayat samitis in May.

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