BJP to move SC for central forces in Bengal to ensure ‘free and fair’ rural polls
BJP activists agitate outside office of state election commission on Wednesday, demanding strict action over any violence taking place during filing of nominations for the rural elections to be held in the first week of May.Updated: Apr 05, 2018, 09:48 IST
The BJP will approach the Supreme Court on Thursday to seek deployment of central forces in West Bengal for “free, fair and peaceful” conduct of state panchayat polls in May, according to the party’s state president, Dilip Ghosh.
“We will file a petition tomorrow,” Ghosh said on Wednesday, even as the BJP made a flurry of moves in the state to demand deployment of central forces.
Accusing chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s ruling Trinamool Congress of unleashing violence and using intimidatory tactics in the run-up to the rural polls, BJP leaders met governor Keshari Nath Tripathi and also held demonstrations outside the state election commissioner’s office.
Earlier in the day, Tripathi spoke to state election commissioner AK Singh and senior government officials. Singh told mediapersons he briefed the governor on the steps taken to ensure free and fair polls.
The Trinamool counter came in Delhi, where 20 party MPs met Union home minister Rajnath Singh and alleged that the governor was overstepping his constitutional jurisdiction by interfering with the functioning of the state government. “We requested the Union home minister to ensure that he (governor) refrains from doing so,” Trinamool MP Sudip Bandopadhyay told mediapersons.
Ghosh said the governor wanted central forces to be deployed for the polls, but the state government was opposed to the idea. “We saw in Raniganj and Asansol that police could not protect the two towns. How can the same police offer protection to parties across the state?” Raniganj was wracked by violence following clashes during Ram Navami processions. The violence later spread to Asansol.
State education minister and Trinamool secretary general Partha Chatterjee dismissed Ghosh’s allegations and claims. “The violence in Raniganj was caused by outsiders who were brought in by the party of rioters,” said Chatterjee without naming any party.
Meanwhile, stray incidents of violence continued in various districts. Reports of violence came in from South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas, Bankura, Birbhum, Murshidabad, Malda, Hooghly and North Dinajpur districts on the third day of filing of nominations.
The BJP said a party worker, Ajit Murmu, who was injured in a bomb attack a day ago in Ranibadh locality of Bankura district died on Wednesday. The BJP alleged that Trinamool supporters attacked Murmu, 35. “He died this evening,” said state BJP general secretary Sayantan Basu.
On Monday, a 25-year-old man died after allegedly getting caught in crossfire between warring Trinamool factions at Kaliachak village in Malda district. Television channels also aired footage of people firing in the air at Raiganj in North Dinajpur district.
Police dismissed allegations that they were ill-equipped to ensure peaceful polls. “The process of filing nominations has started. There are stray incidents of violence, but the overall situation is peaceful,” said additional director general of police (law & order) Anuj Sharma.
BJP leader Mukul Roy, however, disagreed with the police officer’s assessment. “We demand that the panchayat polls be conducted under the security cover of a central armed force,” he said.
Incidentally, ahead of the 2013 rural elections, then state election commissioner Meera Pande had approached the Supreme Court seeking deployment of central forces. It was allowed and for the first time central forces were deployed for Bengal rural polls.
Meanwhile, Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury spoke in Tripathi’s defence, stating he had only done his duty to ensure free and fair polls. “However, the Trinamool Congress is so shameless that it approached the Union home minister to ensure that the governor cannot discharge his constitutional responsibilities,” he said.
State CPI(M) secretary Suryakanta Mishra alleged that Trinamool workers had wreaked havoc across the state. “We have decided to support any candidate who is contesting against both Trinamool and the BJP in seats where the Left Front is unable to field its own nominee,” he said.
The rural polls will be held in 20 districts on May 1, 3 and 5. The filing of the nominations started on April 2 and will continue till April 9.