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Mamata, CPI(M) question special observer’s neutrality, want him removed

In New Delhi, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) also wrote to the ECI seeking Sharma’s removal on the same grounds.

cities Updated: Mar 28, 2019 00:02 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Mamata Banerjee,India news,Lok Sabha elections 2019
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee(PTI file photo)

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday criticised the Election Commission of India’s appointment of retired BSF director general (DG) KK Sharma as the special central police observer for West Bengal and Jharkhand, questioning his neutrality since he had attended an event organised by an RSS-backed outfit.

In New Delhi, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) also wrote to the ECI seeking Sharma’s removal on the same grounds.

The meeting that the TMC and CPI(M) referred to had been organised by Seemanta Chetana Manch, an RSS-backed NGO, in Kolkata in February last year.

On Wednesday, while releasing her party’s manifesto, Mamata Banerjee displayed a photograph and pointed out that Sharma, seen in uniform in the photograph, had attended the event and that RSS member Rantidev Sengupta, who is now contesting the Lok Sabha elections from the Howrah constituency on a BJP ticket, was also present there.

“A man has been appointed as special observer for West Bengal and Jharkhand who attended a meeting of the RSS in uniform. I respect this khaki dress. It should be used for the safety of the people. He forgot everything... We will write to the ECI. If this goes on, there will be no value of democracy,” she said.

Responding to Banerjee’s charges, Rantideb Sengupta said he sees no reason for stirring up a controversy over the event. “RSS is not any political organisation. It was a social event. I was there as an RSS member but he went there to support the cause the organisation espouses,” Sengupta said.

On Tuesday, the poll panel appointed Sharma, a 1982-batch IPS officer, as the Special Central Police Observer for West Bengal and Jharkhand. He will oversee the deployment and other security related issues in the said states.

In its letter to the ECI, the CPI(M) alleged that the move was “patently questionable and would raise the question of political partisanship”.

Incidentally, Seemanta Chetana Manch is a pan-India organisation that works to “instil patriotism” among residents close to India’s border.

Last year, a controversy had erupted around Sharma’s presence at the event while wearing in uniform. In a press statement, the BSF had said that Sharma attended the conference on “border management practices” because efficient border management could not be carried out without the participation of the local population.

Banerjee also alleged that a senior bureaucrat - RK Mitra - a joint secretary in the Union home ministry whose wife, Sreerupa Mitra Choudhury, is contesting from the Malda Dakshin Lok Sabha constituency in Bengal on a BJP ticket, is influencing central force deployment in Bengal.

“We have already written a letter seeking the removal of RK Mitra, whose wife is contesting on a BJP ticket from (Bengal’s) Malda (district),” said Mamata Banerjee.

Sreerupa Mitra Choudhury could not be contacted despite repeated attempts as her phone was switched off.

Incidentally, she had contested the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 on a TMC ticket from South Delhi. She joined the BJP in 2015.

First Published: Mar 28, 2019 00:02 IST