Trinamool Congress on Saturday stayed away from the all-party meeting convened by the state Election Commission in Kolkata to discuss the upcoming panchayat polls in West Bengal, prompting the opposition Congress and Communist Party of India-Marxist to accuse the ruling party of disrespecting a constitutional body.
TMC, however, said it had informed SEC of its decision through a fax message. "We had informed the SEC in a fax that we will not be present. Earlier on only one all-party meet was convened. The SEC had taken all decisions unilaterally, without any discussion. It had unilaterally announced the counting date. So by being present in the meeting we would only endorse its unilateral decisions. So we decided against it," said state Industries minister Partha Chatterjee said.
Opposition the Congress and CPI-M, who attended the meeting, expressed surprise over TMC's absence and termed it as "unprecedented".
"This is unprecedented. Never before in the 40 years of my political career have we seen a ruling party being absent in a all party meet. This is nothing but disrespect to a constitutional body like SEC," Congress leader Manas Bhuniya said after the meet.
CPI0-M state secretariat member Rabin Deb said, "It is really a matter of concern that the ruling party is absent. It only shows its disregard of constitutional and democratic norms. We had wanted the issue of rectification of voter list to be brought up before it."
The opposition alleged that the TMC had ushered in a reign of terror in rural Bengal in a bid to terrorise the masses before upcoming pancahayat polls.
The panchayat polls had become a bone of contention between the SEC and TMC as both had moved to the court over the holding of the elections.
The Supreme Court had last week fixed the polling dates on July 11, 15, 19, 22 and 25 and turned down the plea of the state government and some NGOs seeking to reschedule the dates in view of Ramzan likely to start from July 10 and end on August 9.
"The Trinamool had ushered in a reign of terror in a bid to terrorise the masses before polls. We have appealed to the SEC to see that security arrangements are in place so that people can come out and vote freely," Deb said.
Deb also accused the Trinamool of trying to implicate the CPI-M candidates in false cases in various parts of the state.
Hitting out at the TMC, Bhuniya said, "The bike gang of Trinamool is patrolling various villages and trying to terrorise the masses. We want this to stop. In many villages small hooch shops have been opened and liquor is being supplied. This has to stop."
In view of Ramzan, the Congress had appealed that the vote timings be fixed between 6 am to 4 pm.