TMC, BJP engage in blame game over audio clips
As 30 of West Bengal’s 294 assembly seats went to the polls on Saturday, two audio clips — one claimed to be a conversation between Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Mukul Roy and Shishir Bajoria and the other containing an alleged talk between chief minister Mamata Banerjee and a BIP leader from East Midnapore district — triggered a fresh political slugfest.
Trinamool Congress (TMC) spokesperson and former Rajya Sabha MP Kunal Ghosh released an audiotape of a conversation, which he claimed happened between Roy and Bajoria. Ghosh said the two discussed how the Election Commission of India should be approached to allow any voter from any part of a constituency to become the BJP’s polling booth agent in a district. The ECI recently passed such an order.
HT could not independently verify the authenticity of either of the audio clips.
“The commission has no hard and fast rule on this. We have to make an appeal. Otherwise you know very well there are many areas where people will not be able to go (to the booths),” one of the two voices can be heard saying.
“The conversation proves that the BJP, as we always claimed, does not have enough members in Bengal to become its polling agents. The BJP influenced the ECI to change rules,” said Ghosh, referring to the ECI’s recent decision to relax the old rule which said a polling agent has to be a voter from that booth itself.
Bajoria did not deny that the voices in the audiotape were not his or that of Roy’s.
“We submitted a memorandum to the ECI and shared its copy with the media. There is nothing to hide here. My question is, how could Ghosh get access to our telephonic conversation. Is the state government tapping our phone calls?” said Bajoria.
The BJP, in a bid to corner the TMC, released the audiotape of an alleged conversation between Banerjee and the BJP’s East Midnapore district unit vice-president Pralay Pal.
In the conversation, a woman, who the BJP claimed to be Banerjee, urged Pal, who deserted the TMC and joined the saffron camp, to return to the party and help it in the elections. “You were a good worker. Do you think the people you are working with now are honest,” the woman can be heard saying.
Pal did not deny released the audio clip that the BJP’s top leaders shared on social media and even submitted it to the ECI with an allegation that the chief minister was resorting to unfair means to win the elections in East Midnapore where she is pitted against heavyweight leader and her former cabinet minister Suvendu Adhikari.
In the audiotape, the man on the other end of the line can be heard saying that his family is dedicated to the Adhikari family and he would never betray the BJP. The woman can be heard saying, “Give it a thought. Thank you. Stay well.”
Adhikari said, “The conversation proves that Banerjee is bankrupt.”
While neither confirming nor denying that the voice in the audiotape was Banerjee’s, senior TMC leader and panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee said, “I do not see anything wrong in a party leader asking an old dedicated worker to return. This shows her dedicated and love for workers. I feel proud that I joined the TMC.” Mukherjee was earlier a Congress leader.
ECI officials refused to comment on the audio clips. A senior official, however, said: “The ECI keeps revising rules. In a new order, which is applicable to all states, any voter from the constituency can be a polling agent.”