KOLKATA: The Supreme Court has expressed shock over the “thousands and thousands” of seats in the recent West Bengal panchayat polls that remained uncontested. The court observed that these figures showed that at the grassroot level, democracy was not working in the state. A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said, “Huge number of seats went uncontested during the panchayat elections in Bengal. We cannot remain oblivious to this fact. Out of 48,000 gram panchayat seats, nearly 16,000 went uncontested and this is puzzling us.”
The bench added, “Similar facts were observed for the posts of zilla parishads (district-level) and panchayat samitis at the villages during the panchayat polls in Bengal.” The SC has directed the West Bengal State Election Commission to file and affidavit by Wednesday, with exact statistics about the number of seats that went uncontested in the local body elections in the state. Elections were held in phases for 48,650 posts in Gram Panchayats, 825 posts in Zilal Parishads and 9217 posts in Panchayat Samitis and it has been alleged that around 34 per cent seats were uncontested.
The bench questioned the decisions of the state election body and said it had first extended the time limit for filing of nomination papers and later withdrew the decision within a day. The bench said, “It should have extended the deadline to file nomination papers. So many seats went uncontested. If no one is contesting, then there will be no litigation. But here the fact is there were litigations which means that people are aware of the fact that something amiss.”
Appearing on behalf of Bengal BJP, senior advocate PS Patwalia provided a district-wise break-up of the uncontested seats and acts about violence in the run-up to the elections. TMC General Secretary Partha Chatterjee said, “The matter is sub-judice and I would not like to make any comments on this issue.”