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Bengal’s ruling party murdering democracy, intellectuals say for the second consecutive day

kolkata Updated: Apr 12, 2018 22:32 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
West Bengal,Bengal Panchayat Polls,Mamata Banerjee

Economist Amiya Bagchi (extreme left), retired Supreme Court judge Ashok Ganguly and former principal of Presidency College, Amal Kumar Mujherjee (extreme right).(HT Photo)

A section of prominent Kolkata-based intellectuals came down on Trinamool Congress for the second consecutive day alleging the ruling party has strangulated democracy in Bengal with its strong arm tactics to prevent opposition candidates from filing nomination papers for the panchayat elections.

Former Supreme Court justice Ashok Ganguly, economist Amiya Bagchi, former Presidency College principal Amal Kumar Mukherjee, Naxalite leader Azizul Haque and a few academicians held a press conference at Kolkata Press Club on Thursday. They slammed the State Election Commissioner, alleging the regulator is “completely toothless.”

Read: The road ahead for Bengal after Calcutta HC suspends panchayat poll process

On Wednesday, a section of intellectuals who backed Mamata Banerjee during the Singur and Nandigram land movements held a press conference to lambast the ruling party and state government for the ongoing violence over nomination for panchayat polls.

Shocked by the criticism from the intellectuals, the chief minister claimed on Wednesday that they were “misled by a section of the media.”

On Thursday, the pitch of criticism was sharper and it came from more prominent personalities.

"The State Election Commission is toothless. Legislators have to empower it to take and enforce decisions," said Bagchi.

Read: TMC virtually unopposed in zilla parishad, nominations for Bengal rural polls extended

Mukherjee alleged that ruling party leaders visited the residence of state election commissioner A K Singh after he issued the April 9 order, extending the deadline for filing nomination by a day, to coerce him to withdraw the order within 12 hours. "They knew that they could not intimidate him at his office, and therefore, chose to visit his home," alleged Mukherjee, a noted professor of political science.

Ganguly said the violence from the beginning of the nomination period gives ample indication of what will follow during the days of campaigning and during polling. “The tendency of ensuring a panchayat system without the opposition is most dangerous for democracy,” he said.

Read: BJP, Congress move courts for ‘free, fair’ Bengal rural polls

Mukherjee pointed out that a SEC cannot be dismissed by a state government. “Only the President can impeach him if the decision has the support of two-thirds of the members of both houses of Parliament. This is to ensure that the commissioner can function with independence," said Mukherjee. He alleged that A K Singh succumbed to pressure from the ruling party. “He should have demanded Central forces just as former SEC Meera Pande did in 2013,” said the veteran educationist.

The current State Election Commission is a toothless organisation and steps should be taken to empower it, the intellectuals said unanimously.

Sugata Hazra , a professor of geology, said, “Democracy needs to be strengthened to resist communalism.”

First Published: Apr 12, 2018 22:32 IST