The West Bengal State Election Commission on Thursday announced that the panchayat election in the state will be held on a single day on May 14. The counting of votes will be done on May 17.
The decision came after a recommendation from the state government that the polls be held on May 14.
The elections were earlier slated to be held in three phases on May 1, 3 and 5.
But the schedule was pushed back after the Calcutta High Court stayed the polling process on petitions moved by the opposition parties who complained that they were not being allowed to file nominations allegedly by armed miscreants owing allegiance to the ruling Trinamool Congress.
Justice Subrata Talukdar then asked the SEC to extend the deadline for submitting nomination by a day. In conformity with the order, the SEC declared April 23 as the extended date for filing of nominations.
Angry over the SEC announcement, the opposition parties said the state lacked adequate number of police personnel to provide fool-proof security and alleged the poll panel never discussed the matter with them, despite a direction from the high court.
"The court had directed the SEC to hold discussions with all political parties. So far we have not received invitation for any such deliberations," said BJP leader Pratap Banerjee.
"Secondly, the SEC should ponder over what kind of security it is providing the voters. There are around 58,000 polling booths. The total umber of personnel with the state police is also 58,000. Does that mean all police stations will be under lock and key, and all personnel will guard the booths?
"Or will there be a jungle raj with all miscreants backed by Trinamool flexing their muscles at the booths? The Trinamool wants to prevent genuine voters from exercising their franchise, so that anti-socials can indulge in false voting," said Banerjee.
Left Front chairman and senior CPI-M leader Biman Bose also pulled up the SEC for not talking to representatives of political parties before announcing the polling date.
"The state government asked the SEC unilaterally to hold polls on May 14, and it has obliged.
"It seems they want a blood-splattered polling day. The state government is leading the SEC through a road which can only push the state to the graveyard of democracy," said Bose.
Former state Congress chief Pradip Bhattacharya said the ruling Trinamool was going ahead in its mission to create an "opposition-free" state.
"The state government knows a single-day polling will lead to mayhem. The Trinamool-backed goons will capture booths and vote. This will only result in there being not a single opposition party among the elected representatives in the state.
"This is unprecedented in India," said Bhattacharya, currently a Rajya Sabha member.