The Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) staged separate protests in Kolkata on Monday against violence during the filing of nominations for the panchayat elections in West Bengal next month, PTI reported.

Elections for zilla parishads, panchayat samitis, and gram panchayats are scheduled for May 1, 3 and 5. Opposition candidates have accused the ruling Trinamool Congress of stopping them from filing nominations.

“The state government is trying to turn the panchayat polls into a farce,” state Congress President Adhir Chowdhury said. “Never before the Opposition parties in the state have faced such a situation where they were not allowed to file nominations by the ruling party. If the Trinamool Congress is so confident of their development work in the past seven years, why are they afraid of opposition candidates.”

Congress leaders observed a day-long fast at Rani Rashmoni Road in Kolkata and shouted slogans against the Mamata Banerjee-led government. The Left Front, led by the CPI(M), organised a protest rally around 2.30 pm from Birla Planetarium to Esplanade.

CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said the State Election Commission had become a “back office” of the Trinamool Congress.

Calcutta HC extends stay on election processes

The Calcutta High Court on Monday extended a stay it had ordered on all panchayat election processes in West Bengal, including the withdrawal and scrutiny of nominations. The High Court said a single bench will hear the matter.

In its last hearing, the court had asked the state election commission to file a status report in the case. The court has now extended the stay till its next hearing on Tuesday, PTI reported.

The BJP had moved the Supreme Court on April 10 against the State Election Commission’s decision to revoke its order extending the deadline to file nominations for panchayat elections by a day. The order extending the deadline was issued after violence broke out on the last day of filing of nominations. However, the Supreme Court asked the BJP to approach the Calcutta High Court instead.

Several clashes were reported earlier this month between BJP and Trinamool Congress workers while candidates were filing nomination papers for the elections.