Barely 24 hours after taking charge and declaring on Wednesday that his office needed to study at least 2,000 hours of video footage, interim state election commissioner Alapan Bandyopadhyay announced repoll in just nine booths of four wards in Salt Lake and two booths of two wards in Asansol on Friday, triggering angry reaction from the opposition that decided to boycott the exercise. This means that all the opposition parties will not field any election agent inside the booths, effectively reducing the exercise to a farce.
Counting, the SEC declared, would be held on October 10.
“The decision of repoll has been taken after watching some of the CCTV footage (as far as practicable) inside booths. Footage of two TV channels were also seen,” Bandyopadhyay told reporters.
But what about the large-scale violence and voter intimidation that took place by hired goons of the ruling party in Salt Lake and Asansol. Bandapadhyay argued that any violence on the streets is not tantamount to disturbance of the poll process. The election commission, the SEC said, is only concerned with violence inside polling booths and that simply did not take place in either Salt Lake or Asansol. Such comments drew sharp criticism from the opposition parties.
“How can he say so? Isn’t it the duty of the election commissioner to provide safety to the voters. I have started doubting his intentions,” said state Congress leader Arunabha Ghosh. The opposition parties that were demanding a total repoll hit back saying they will boycott the re-election.
“We will boycott this election,” said state BJP president Rahul Sinha and state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury. On Thursday evening, a group of Left leaders met the governor and conveyed their decision to him. “We will not take part in this election,” said Rabin Deb, CPI(M) leader.