Babu carrot in poll run-up

Calcutta, Feb. 2: Mamata Banerjee today announced initiatives that offer more power and pecuniary benefits to West Bengal Civil Service (WBCS) officers, many of whom will play an instrumental role in the panchayat polls.

"BDOs are the face of the administration at the grassroots…. Do your job well, treat the common people well and the government will treat you well," the chief minister was quoted as saying by an official who attended the WBCS (Executive) Officers' Association's annual general meeting at the Town Hall this afternoon.

Mamata made it a point to make the officers ' over 1,500 were present ' feel important during her 45-minute speech at the event, held behind closed doors unlike the last edition almost a year ago.

As reward for the "good work" she said they had been doing, Mamata announced a series of incentives. They are:

Eligibility for two additional increments each, at the entry level and during every 8-year promotion;

Reservation of 50 posts, instead of 25, of special secretaries;

Scope for direct communication with the chief minister to get their concerns addressed;

Bridge courses for spoken English, in association with the British Council;

Model schools in districts for children of officers.

"It was clear she wanted all of us to go home happy," said a BDO from West Midnapore.

Not only do the 1,527 WBCS officers make up the backbone of the state administration, the role of the 341 BDOs among them is especially significant.

The BDOs double as returning officers for the gram panchayat and panchayat samiti polls and as additional returning officers at the zilla parishad level.

A state election commission official termed BDOs the "eyes, ears, hands and feet" of the poll panel in the voting season. "The BDOs have discretionary powers… to accept or reject nominations and disqualifying the ineligible ones after scrutiny," he said.

The panchayat polls are significant in that the party bagging most of the 3,351 gram panchayats and the 341 panchayat samitis is expected to set the stage for a "solid performance" in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and the Assembly elections scheduled for 2016.

"The Left Front still controls 13 of 17 zilla parishads. But it was the ground they conceded to Trinamul at the gram panchayat and panchayat samiti levels in 2008 that made a huge difference in the parliamentary and Assembly elections," a state government officer said.

A Writers' Buildings source attributed another reason for the focus on the officers: "Madam knows the Left lobby is still the dominant force among the WBCS cadre, once considered the CPM's fief. She has been trying to woo them away from her arch-rivals with such carrots."

The CPM saw the move as an attempt to "control" the rural polls. Central committee member Mohammad Salim said: "The move reeks of a great deal of insecurity. She wants to gain absolute power, even in the panchayat framework, through the bureaucracy. She probably hopes to be able to control the rural elections through such measures."

'Not vindictive'

Mamata today said she was not vindictive. "We have not arrested a single person. We could have done it going by the files of the last 34 years. Only two arrests were made on the high court's order. Had I been vindictive, not a single leader would have remained outside, all would have been in jail," she said at an event in Hooghly's Dadpur.

The comment came two days after The Telegraph reported that the home secretary had asked the CBI why it had not "examined" former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in the Nandigram firing case.

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Furious fifties by Duminy and Dinesh Karthik end a long losing streak for the Daredevils. More »

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

Royal Challengers overcame a stutter to cruise to the small target they were set by Mumbai Indians. More »

Glenn Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell seems to project an icy disdain when at the crease. Match situations rarely faze him and the bubble in which he plays excludes everyone … More »

Srinivasan can attend BCCI meeting

Srinivasan can attend BCCI meeting

His status as president of TNCA makes him eligible to attend the Working Committee meeting on Sunday. More »

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

Kevin Pietersen's hopes of reviving his international career appeared to end Saturday when ECB managing director Paul Downton said there was 'no way back'… More »

[REWIND] The world record that nearly wasn't

[REWIND] The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it. More »

Moores gets second stint as England coach

Moores gets second stint as England coach

In a two-year spell from 2007 to 2009, the 51-year-old Moores led England in seven Test series. More »

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh's senior players will have three sessions with a psychological skill development coach later this month More »

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

Dalmiya feels that Srinivasan’s ‘power hungry’ attitude isn’t helping matters. More »

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Kevin Pietersen has ridiculed the idea of day-night Test cricket, saying the game would be so different to proper Test cricket that we will need a whole… More »

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

The bowlers restricted Hyderabad to 133 for 6 before Rahane and Binny took Rajasthan over the line. More »

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

The 36-year-old believes the T20 format and rule changes in 50-over matches have made a real difference. More »

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

The Kings XI batsman blasted a 43-ball 95 to help his team pull off a massive chase against Chennai Super Kings. More »

BCCI members want independent probe

BCCI members want independent probe

The board members are realising after the Supreme Court's observations that something has to be done — IS Bindra More »

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

Two former BCCI presidents, Shashank Manohar and Jagmohan Dalmiya, have reacted strongly to the news of the BCCI calling an emergent meeting on Sunday… More »

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Preview — The threat of Sunil Narine looms large again. More »

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Preview — Given the firepower in both line-ups, Dubai crowd may see another high-scorer More »

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity… More »

Stressed Trott stands down again

Stressed Trott stands down again

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday confirmed that batsman Jonathan Trott is to take another break from all cricket with immediate eff… More »

PCB starts another coach hunt

PCB starts another coach hunt

The PCB has decided to not extend the contracts of head coach Moin Khan, fielding coach Shoaib Mohammad and batting consultant Zaheer Abbas, and has invited… More »

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

England all-rounder Ben Stokes admits he must keep his anger under control if he is to end his international exile. More »

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Yuvraj Singh was back to his best in his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore. More »

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistani cricket authorities have launched an investigation after a number of current international stars played in exhibition matches in the United States… More »

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

The BCCI will hold an emergent working committee meeting on April 20 to discuss the future course of action with regard to the Supreme Court hearing concerning… More »