Kolkata: The Election Commission of India (ECI), in a letter signed by Rakesh Kumar, Secretary, EC, sent to Chief Secretary of the West Bengal, has ordered the immediate removal of Atri Bhattacharya, Home Secretary of West Bengal and the transfer of ADG (CID ) to the Home Ministry in New Delhi. He has been asked to join duty by 10 a.m on May 16.
Strikingly, in view of the troubles brewing up in the pre-poll scenario, the EC has also decided to cut short the campaign period by one day, by 6 p.m on Thursday, invoking the power vested with EC by the dint of Article 324 of the Indian Constitution.
Interestingly, the helicopter campaign of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister Mamata Banerjee will be over by 5 p.m, according to pre-intimation to the EC from both these parties.
The Left parties, especially the CPI(M), has criticised the decision to cut short the campaign period, and have alleged that that the decision was taken keeping in mind the campaign period of the PM as well as the West Bengal CM. It said it the other parties which will bear the brunt of this decision.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) state secretary, Surjya Kanti Mishra, said though the EC’s order superficially shows it is now pro-active, a deeper look exposes its failure to make the state administration and the police adhere to its orders. He said though EC has made this at the final stage of the election process, the EC has earlier overlooked important matters that its attentition was drawn to by the opposition parties. The EC’s failure to act has resulted in voters forced to exercise their right vote in a terror-filled atmosphere in Bengal, he added.
While appealing to its activists to not hold any bias towards the ‘efficacy of the EC’, the CPI(M) also urged its supporters to keep the EC updated about incidences of non-adherence to the Model Code of Conduct in the last phase (May 19) too. The emphasis, it noted, has to be on imparting confidence to the common electorate to vote with determination and without fear in an organised manner in the state next Sunday.
On May 19, eight parliamentary segments, including two seats in Kolkata, four In South 24 Parganas and two in North 24 Parganas district are going to vote in the seventh and last phase of the general elections.
The Left parties also noted a “concerted game plan aided by a section of media”, especially the electronic media, to build a binary narrative of the polls in West Bengal, projecting it as a battle between the BJP and TMC, which led to a “bitter mock fight” during a roadshow of BJP President Amit Shah on May 14,resulted in violence in some parts of North Kolkata and the destruction of the bust of Vidyasagar, an iconic 19th century social reformer and educationist.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, who is in Kolkata for the poll campaign has strongly criticised the EC for its “lack of spine” and “deliberate overlooking of terror conditions,” especially in Diamond Harbour PS of South 24 Parganas, where the chief minister’s nephew is pitted against the prime opposition candidate, CPI(M) s Fuad Halim. “There the CPI(M) has been given permission to hold rallies in only 18% of the areas by the District Administration, who are acting as the arm of the EC,” he alleged.