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Lok Sabha elections 2019: BJP, TMC, Congress keep poll body busy over Bengal

According to a person aware of developments, two of BJP’s main demands that were met included the removal of Rajiv Kumar and increasing deployment of central forces in the state.

lok sabha elections Updated: May 17, 2019 07:49 IST
ECI,BJP,TMC
Complaints from and about West Bengal have kept the Election Commission of India (ECI) busy this poll season. (Hindustan Times)

Complaints from and about West Bengal have kept the Election Commission of India (ECI) busy this poll season. Between February 4 and April 16, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) submitted 40 representations to the ECI, flagging concerns over various polling aspects in the state, while the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) submitted four and the Congress 15.

Most of BJP’s complaints pertained to requests for transfer of state officials who, the party felt, were not being impartial in carrying out their duties against voter suppression, attacks against BJP workers, and over chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s alleged violation of the model code of conduct.

The TMC has lodged roughly four complaints, all against the BJP. The latest was on the vandalism of a bust of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar in a Kolkata college, following a roadshow by BJP president Amit Shah on Tuesday. It has, however, lodged many complaints with the state election office against BJP’s alleged malpractices.

A Congress functionary said while leaders in the All India Congress Committee had gone to the ECI on five instances to complain of poll violence in West Bengal, the party’s Bengal unit had approached the state chief electoral officer (CEO) over 15 times.

Rajya Sabha MP Pradip Bhattacharya said state unit leaders had approached the CEO on several poll-related violence complaints. “We complained about the threat and intimidation that voters are facing in and around Malda area, where those going to meetings of other parties are harassed and their houses burned. We asked the poll officers to send central forces, but nothing came of it,” said Bhattacharya.

Following complaints from both the BJP and the TMC that accused each other of orchestrating Tuesday’s violence, the poll watchdog cut short campaigning in Bengal for the May 19 polling. Campaigning ended on Thursday at 10 pm instead of Friday 5 pm (where it will end in the other states that go to polls on Sunday).

According to a person aware of developments, two of BJP’s main demands that were met included the removal of Rajiv Kumar and increasing deployment of central forces in the state.

On Wednesday, the ECI relieved Kumar from the post of additional director general of the CID in the state, and ordered him to report for duty at the home ministry in Delhi. Though he was removed following Tuesday’s violence during Shah’s roadshow, the party had submitted a representation seeking his removal on April 1.

The BJP had approached the EC on February 4 with a representation to invoke its rights under Article 324 of the Constitution to ensure that all parties get a level playing field and polls are held freely. The BJP complained that the Bengal administration was not giving permission for political rallies on land that was “historically and conventionally” used for such purposes, harassment of workers and denial or delay in landing of choppers.

The party cited specific instances of the choppers of BJP president Shah, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanth and union minister Rajnath Singh being given permission to land only hours before their rallies.

This was followed by a representation seeking the removal of Onkar Singh Meena, additional chief electoral officer, on grounds of “favouritism”; and another against the state government’s ban on the use of loudspeakers in residential areas or where educational institutions are located three days before school examinations. In March, the BJP demanded that West Bengal be designated as “sensitive” and a chief state observer be appointed to oversee the work of the state election commission.

On April 1, the party was back at ECI, complaining about “political violence” in the state. The BJP also submitted a representation against what it alleged was “violence and rigging” during Phase 1 of elections in certain constituencies. After the fourth phase of polling, the BJP renewed its demand for deployment of central forces to prevent violence at polling booths.

A complaint was also filed against the chief minister for saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi deserved a slap for accusing TMC of using extortion money.

(With inputs from Amrita Madhukalya)

First Published: May 17, 2019 07:31 IST