Kolkata: In a virtual 'collision' with the State Election Commission (SEC), West Bengal government on Saturday unilaterally announced panchayat polls in the state in two phases, on April 26 and 30.
"We are issuing the notification for the panchayat polls. It will be held in two phases on April 26 and 30. Armed policemen will be deployed in every booth," Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee said.
The SEC had earlier proposed to hold the panchayat polls in three phases under the supervision of central forces. Mukherjee said while the election would be held in 14 districts on April 26, three districts, Malda, Murshidabad and Uttar Dinajpur, will go to polls on April 30.
Malda, Murshidabad and Uttar Dinajpur districts are known to be Congress stronghold where Trinamool Congress has been trying to expand their support base for the last few years.
Mukherjee said the decision was taken after discussing with everybody and the state government has already intimated this to the SEC. The state government's decision to issue notification for the panchayat polls drew a sharp reaction from opposition Congress.
State Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya termed the decision as fascist. "This announcement is nothing but a reflection of the fascist mentality of the Trinamool Congress government," Bhattacharya said.
The Congress had earlier said it wanted a three-phase poll under central security force. The CPM which had earlier urged the state government to accept the SEC's suggestion for a three-phase poll in the interest of peace, said it would comment on this announcement only after seeing the reaction of the SEC.
The ruling Trinamool Congress and the SEC were at loggerheads for sometime over holding of the panchayat polls as the state government wanted it to be held much earlier.
Trinamool Congress general secretary Mukul Roy even attacked State Election Commissioner Mira Pandey, saying she is "trying to help" the Left as she was appointed during the previous regime. The SEC termed this accusation "unfortunate" saying its aim was to ensure free and fair elections.