Kolkata: The Bengal election commission on Wednesday sought 425 senior IAS and WBCS officers to be deployed as observers for “free and fair” panchayat polls, a demand that had led to face-off with the state government in 2013.
“In 2013, the demand for 400-odd senior officers by the poll body was one of the reasons behind the conflict. The government feels so many senior officers cannot be spared for over a month as it would hit development projects. The government has not changed its stance, nor has the election commission,” said a senior state official.
This time, the election commission has written to Nabanna that the 425 IAS and WBCS officers should be of the rank of deputy secretary or above.
“In 2013, the state government had sent only 280 officers, mostly juniors compared to the IAS and WBCS. The main dispute between the state and the commission was over central forces but the battle over observers was also very dramatic,” said an official.
Then state electioneer Mira Pande had moved court demanding central forces after the state refused to seek such personnel. “There are 330-odd blocks and 20 districts. One needs at least 350 senior officers as observers,” said a source in the commission.
But senior state officers disagreed. “Though no new projects can be initiated during the elections, the government feels monitoring of ongoing projects is equally important,” a senior official said.
“The elections are likely in May. The demand for observers so early sends a message that the commission may remain firm,” said another official.