TMC letter after CM injury full of ‘insinuations, averments’: EC

The confrontation began shortly after Banerjee sustained injuries in what her party described as “an attempt on her life” in a letter to the commission, which it also accused of taking over the law and order machinery “in the name of conducting elections”.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee at SSKM hospital after suffering injuries during her Nandigram visit on March 10. (PTI)
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee at SSKM hospital after suffering injuries during her Nandigram visit on March 10. (PTI)
Updated on Mar 12, 2021 03:43 AM IST
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ByDeeksha Bhardwaj, New Delhi

The Election Commission of India on Thursday wrote to the Trinamool Congress, stating that the letter regarding the “attack” on chief minister Mamata Banerjee was full of “insinuations and averments that question the very basis of the creation and functioning of the Election Commission”.

The confrontation began shortly after Banerjee sustained injuries in what her party described as “an attempt on her life” in a letter to the commission, which it also accused of taking over the law and order machinery “in the name of conducting elections”.

“At the outset, it needs to be stated that the injuries sustained by Ms Banerjee… is indeed an unfortunate incident and deserves to be inquired into with promptitude and dispatch,” the commission said in its response to the party. “Having said that, the memorandum (letter sent by TMC) in question is full of insinuations and averment.”

The commission further added that it is “completely incorrect” to state that EC has taken over the law and order situation in the state and “in the name of conducting elections and appropriated the whole government structure”.

“This (is) virtually tantamount to undermine the very foundation and fabric of the constitution of India,” the communication reads. “The commission does not appropriate or take over the day to day governance of any state, including West Bengal, which keeps on functioning as per the extant rules of business and work distribution normally approved by the chief minister.”

TMC, in its letter to the chief electoral officer of the state on Wednesday, had said the Election Commission has “taken over the law and order machinery in the state” and replaced the director general of police without any consultation. It added that within 24 hours of the DGP’s removal, the only woman chief minister of India was attacked and an “attempt was made on her life”.

“At the time of the assault, neither the SP, nor the local police was present to give her security cover,” the letter states. HT has seen a copy of the letter. Parliamentarians from TMC are also slated to meet the Commission on Friday to discuss the situation.

Bharatiya Janata Party and Trinamool Congress have both approached the Election Commission, as slugfest over the “attack” on Banerjee in Nandigram escalated.

BJP has also approached the Commission to probe the incident. Some of the BJP leaders including the party’s state chief spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya and senior leader Tathagta Roy also visited the state-run SSKM hospital in Kolkata to meet the chief minister.

A person familiar with the matter said that Banerjee is the chief minister as well as the home minister of the state. “The Commission has sought the details of the incident, it will evaluate the matter accordingly,” the person said.

The Election Commission has also sought a report from Allapan Bandyopadhyay, chief secretary West Bengal, Vivek Dubey, special police observer, and Ajay Nayak, special general observer. The officials are expected to turn in their report by Friday evening, that is, within 48 hours of the incident.

The upcoming polls, slated to begin March 27 and conclude on May2, are particularly contentious as the BJP has amped up its efforts to unseat the incumbent chief minister.

The 294-member assembly will vote in eight phases, which has itself been a contentious issue with TMC alleging that it was designed to give the BJP more time to “control” the elections. Last year, when BJP party chief JP Nadda’s convoy came under attack barely 60 kms away from the capital, Kolkata, the central government had ordered an inquiry into the incident.

According to former CEC VS Sampath, Banerjee is entitled to protection as both CM and a candidate. “Any candidate who feels they are under threat, is entitled to protection,” Sampath said. “While the Commission does not give direct protection, they will make a threat appraisal for any candidate. They will make an assessment and ask authorities to provide security.”

Sampath added that the Commission has its own observers in the state and will seek the report in this particular case. “The Commission will rely on the facts of the case; it has not only sought a report from the chief secretary but also its own observers. At the end of the day, the Commission’s priority is to ensure free and fair polls in the state,” he said.

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Saturday, December 04, 2021