Day after clashes, TMC-BJP slugfest rages on
The EC on Wednesday ordered campaigning in all nine West Bengal constituencies that go to polls on May 19 — the last phase of the ongoing general elections — to end at 10pm on Thursday.Updated: May 16, 2019 16:57 IST
Lambasting the Election Commission of India (EC) on Wednesday for its decision to cut short campaigning period by 19 hours, Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee said that the poll watchdog was guided by directives from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the centre, even as Union minister Arun Jaitley said that EC’s decision indicated that there was a breakdown of the constitutional machinery in the state.
The EC on Wednesday ordered campaigning in all nine West Bengal constituencies that go to polls on May 19 — the last phase of the ongoing general elections — to end at 10pm on Thursday, a day before its scheduled deadline, in the wake of violence between BJP and Trinamool Congress (TMC) supporters in Kolkata.
EC’s decision, announced by deputy election commissioner Chandra Bhushan Kumar in a press conference in Kolkata, comes a day after parts of the city witnessed widespread violence during BJP president Amit Shah’s massive road show on Tuesday.
“Do whatever you want against me. Send me to jail, issue a show cause notice. But you can do me no harm,” TMC chief Banerjee said in response, at a press conference in her residence, adding that her party will move the Supreme Court against this decision of the poll panel.
“Modi came here today. But did he apologise [for the desecration of the idol of Vidyasagar]?” she asked. Banerjee alleged that BJP president Amit Shah, who had held a roadshow in Kolkata on Tuesday, was “rewarded for the trouble he created [in Kolkata].” Prime Minister Narendra Modi held rallies in the state on Wednesday, in which he alleged that Banerjee had “orchestrated the attack on Amit Shah”.
Banerjee also said the EC did not put an end to the campaign on Wednesday, as it did not want to interfere with Modi’s rallies at Dumdum and Mathurapur on Thursday.
Due to EC’s decision, all Friday rallies and public meetings now stand cancelled. Banerjee will conduct four rallies on Thursday, including a road show that will double as a protest march, in Behala, Kolkata. Meanwhile, Modi will conduct two public meetings on Thursday.
“The decision to end the campaign a day earlier has been taken at the behest of Modi so that the BJP can escape the public sentiment against them in the aftermath of the vandalism of Vidyasagar’s statue. If this decision has indeed been taken considering law and order situation, why wasn’t campaigning stopped from tonight itself? Isn’t it because Modi has two rallies tomorrow?” she said.
“This is an attack on the federal structure. I shall fight this battle boldly,” she added.
In a series of tweets, Jaitley however, said that the Election Commission has effectively held West Bengal to be in a “state of anarchy”. “A constitutional authority, the Election Commission of India, has effectively held Bengal to be a state in Anarchy. Repeatedly escalating violence, state supported Vandals, a partisan police and home department are the illustrations the ECI has given.”
However, several Opposition leaders questioned EC’s decision.
“If a ban is intended for 72 hours, why is it starting at 10pm tomorrow? Is it to allow the two rallies of the PM before that?” CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury tweeted shortly after EC’s announcement.
First Published: May 16, 2019 07:13 IST