The tussle between Trinamool Congress and the CPI(M) is not just restricted to the ballot. As both parties plunge into hectic pre-poll canvassing, the candidates are busy fighting over the writing on the wall.
Shashi Panja, the Trinamool Congress candidate from Shyampukur constituency, is angry. A week ago, party workers allegedly erased the Trinamool wall writing and painted graffiti for Jiban Prakash Saha (Forward Bloc) on walls of some houses at Imambux Lane. Panja lodged a complaint at Burtola police station and now a portion of the wall has been whitewashed but other graffiti remain.
"We are taking action on the basis of complaints. I think the particular problem in Imambux Lane has been solved," said Santiprasad Ray, OC of Burtola police station.
At the other end of the spectrum, CPI(M) candidate from Ballygunge, Fuad Halim, has accused Trinamool workers of having painted election graffiti on several walls of his constituency (especially at Ripon Street) without obtaining written permission from the owner of the house.
When HT visited the spot, the walls outside Jhowtolla post office were found full of graffiti of both the parties. The walls adorned party colours and symbols. Said Aloke Ghosh, OC of Karaya police station, "We will take action only on the basis of complaints. While some letters of permission have reached us, others haven't. As far as the Jhowtolla post office is concerned, we have already cleaned the walls once."
Similar incidents were also reported by Abhash Raychoudhury, CPI(M) candidate from Barabani. "The Trinamool has erased our graffiti on many occasions. They are perhaps trying to provoke us but we have not reacted. However, we have stuck to the Election Commission rules."
Veterans such as Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay of Trinamool, however, said that this year the situation is far better with the poll panel having issued strictures on wall writing. "We are following the rules for wall writing, festoons and banners. In fact, I have tried to beautify some walls with my paintings. But I don't know what my opponents are doing."
Another Trinamool candidate from Kolkata complained that one landlord had changed his mind after issuing a formal letter of permission. "We have to accept the landlord's decision," said a Trinamool party worker.
As per the Election Commission's rules, defacement of any government property is punishable by law. Also, parties can use private walls after taking permission from the owner of the property. However, in the race for occupying the electorate's mind, parties are busy occupying the walls of their respective constituencies, even if it means overstepping the law.
EC orders KMC to remove illegal campaign items
To rid the city horizon of eyesores, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) has decided to initiate a drive to clear all illegal political posters, banners, hoardings, cutouts, flags and gates.
The civic authorities, in association with the Kolkata Police, in accordance with the Election Commission directives, has been pulling down every single banner, hoarding, poster and cut-out that had been put by different political parties and their candidates contesting the Assembly polls scheduled on April 27.
"We had received a directive from the Election Commission in the first week of March and are thus acting on it with immediate priority," said a senior KMC official.
The KMC authorities have formed 15 teams, each comprising of KMC demolition squad members, Kolkata Police officers of the local police station and the Election Commission officials, who are instrumental in identifying the illegal political hoardings and banners.
According to KMC officials, the poll panel had appointed its men to identify all illegal posters, banners, cutouts, hoardings and even wall writings in every ward.
"We have been checking whether adequate written permissions have been acquired by the political parties and its candidates from the house owners where either wall writings have been made or posters, banners, cutouts and hoardings have been pasted," said an Election Commission official.
Of the 15 teams, nine have been formed to monitor illegal political hoardings, banners, posters and wall writing in wards 1 to 100. Of these nine teams, six have been working during the daytime and three during the night.
Six teams have been deputed to work in wards 101 to 141 of the KMC, which fall under the South 24-Parganas. Each team for these 40 wards comprised of West Bengal Police officers. The teams report to the district magistrate.
"We have been monitoring the political campaign on a regular basis and have already pulled down several illegal banners and hoardings and have whitewashed the wall writings that do not have the prerequisite permission of the wall owner," said a senior civic official.