The West Bengal government has decided to seek central forces for the panchayat poll in a bid to break the impasse over deployment of security forces, climbing down from its earlier stand of sticking to state forces only.
The filing of nomination papers for the first phase of the three-phase election opened today.
Panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee refused to dub the change in the government's stand on deployment of security forces as a climbdown, arguing that the government had all along wanted the election and for that it had compromised with the state poll panel on many occasions.
"There is no question of a climbdown. Since we want election, we had compromised (with the SEC) on many issues without any ego whatsoever. We were in principle against the use of central forces and we still believe the poll could be conducted by use of state forces. We compromised on this count too," he told PTI.
He said that the Chief Minister had yesterday approved the decision to seek central forces.
He said that the state government had earlier written to nine states requesting availability of their forces for poll duty, but the desired response was not received from other states.
Mukherjee said that the filing of nominations for the first phase of the poll commenced today.
The SEC on Monday issued the notification for phase one of the three-phase rural poll on July 2.
The second and third phases will be held on July 6 and July 9 respectively, and the corresponding notifications would be issued on May 31 and June 3.
Earlier this month, a division bench of the Calcutta High Court had asked the state government to compensate the shortfall of security personnel, if any, by procuring forces from other states or the Centre.
The court had also given a guideline for deployment of security personnel in the 57,000-odd poll booths.