New Delhi: In a setback for the Mamata Banerjee government, the Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to interfere with the Panchayat elections dates in the state. The elections are scheduled to be held in five phases from July 11 in the state.
An NGO had moved the Supreme Court seeking a change in West Bengal panchayat poll dates arguing that elections will take place within the month of Ramzan. Members of the Muslim community on Monday took a procession in Kolkata demanding that panchayat election dates be rescheduled so that they do not coincide with the fasting month of Ramzan.
Prominent leader of the community and state president of All India United Democratic Front Siddiquallah Chowdhury told reporters that hundreds of Muslims marched to the State Election Commission office and submitted a memorandum to the officials in the absence of State Election Commissioner Mira Pandey, who has gone to Delhi. The procession, he said, started from Mullick Bazar in the central part of the city.
"We are not against the five-phase polling, but we are against voting during Ramzan month. Polls are usually associated with violence and at a time when Muslims will be observing fast such kind of environment would pose problems. We are deeply worried," he said.
Chowdhury, who is also the state general secretary of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-Hind, said several organisations under the banner of All India United Democratic Front also marched from the Mullick bazar crossing on the issue. He said that his organisation would also be writing a letter to the Governor and the Chief Minister in this regard.
He claimed that when they had met Pande one and a half months ago, she had assured them of looking into their demand. Chowdhury, however, said Muslims are not giving a vote boycott call.
He accused the state government of not properly taking up the issue in the Supreme Court. Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was aware of the problems the community would face and that was why the government was approaching the Supreme Court.
The ruling Trinamool Congress had said it will also move the Supreme Court on Monday for an amending order to defer the elections as the Muslim holy month begins in the second week of July. "We will approach the Supreme Court on Monday seeking an order that the panchayat polls should not be held during Ramadan," Trinamool Congress leader Sultan Ahmed had said. Ahmed added that the state government will support the move.
The apex court on June 28 had rescheduled the poll dates and directed the SEC to conduct the exercise in five phases starting from July 11. A bench of justices AK Patnaik and Ranjan Gogoi had directed that the election be held on July 11, 15, 19, 22 and 25. The poll was earlier scheduled to be held in three phases from July 2.
(With additional information from PTI)