EC curtails poll campaign in Bengal

EC curtails poll campaign in Bengal
BJP workers clash with police during in Kolkata. (Express photo)
KOLKATA/NEW DELHI, MAY 15 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 5/15/2019 11:04:50 AM IST

In first such action in India’s electoral history, the Election Commission on Wednesday ordered campaigning in nine West Bengal constituencies to end at 10 p.m. on Thursday, a day before its scheduled deadline, in the wake of violence between BJP and TMC workers in Kolkata.

In a hurriedly-convened press conference, Deputy Election Commissioner Chandra Bhushan Kumar said it was for the first time that such an action has been taken using constitutional powers of the poll panel.

The Election Commission (EC) also ordered the removal of Principal Secretary (Home) Atri Bhattacharya and Additional Director General, CID, Rajiv Kumar from their postings in West Bengal. 

The EC’s action came a day after parts of Kolkata witnessed wide-spread violence during BJP president Amit Shah’s massive road show in Kolkata. A bust of 19th century Bengali icon Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was also vandalised during the violence.

“This is for the first time such a measure has been taken using the EC’s constitutional powers. But this is not going to be the last,” Kumar said, referring to curtailment of campaigning period.

A day after the bust of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar lay shattered at a Kolkata college during Tuesday’s violence, the BJP and TMC were locked in bitter recrimination over its desecration as ‘Bengali pride’ overtook all other issues before the last phase of polling on May 19.

Both BJP and TMC blamed each other for the act that many consider is nothing short of sacrilege in the state.

BJP chief Amit Shah, whose convoy was attacked by alleged TMC workers during a roadshow that triggered violence and arson, claimed in New Delhi that workers of TMC vandalised the bust. TMC shot back, blaming “BJP goons” for the act and claiming it has video evidence to prove the allegation. 

Mamata Banerjee led a march in Kolkata where thousands carrying framed photographs of Bengali icons like Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda followed her. 

BJP also staged a silent protest at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi Wednesday to condemn the violence in Kolkata.

‘Curtailing campaign a gift to Modi by EC’

Attacking the Election Commission (EC) for curtailing the campaigning for the last phase of polls in West Bengal, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee said it is an “unprecedented, unconstitutional and unethical gift” to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by the poll panel. Banerjee said she had never seen this type of EC which is “full of RSS people”.
“There is no such law and order problem in West Bengal that Article 324 can be clamped. It is unprecedented, unconstitutional and unethical. It is actually a gift to Modi and (BJP president) Amit Shah,” she claimed in a press conference.
Banerjee alleged that Bengal was being targeted as Modi knew that she was challenging him. “I am challenging him, talking against him, we are countering him on every point. Modi is afraid of Bengal, afraid of me.”
Meanwhile, leaders from Opposition parties came down heavily on EC’s order curtailing campaigning in West Bengal. The ban’s timing is under fire because it allows Prime Minister Modi to address two rallies in Laxmikantapur and Dum Dum in the state scheduled in the afternoon, alleged several leaders.
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel raised questions over the EC order, wondering if the poll panel is “waiting for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to complete his public meetings” there.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav slammed the decision, saying “the decision to call off campaigning in Bengal is against all norms of democratic fair play”.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury also took to Twitter to criticise the poll body. “If a ban is intended for 72 hours, why is it starting at 10 p.m. tomorrow? Is it to allow the two rallies of the PM before that?” Yechury tweeted shortly after the EC’s announcement.
AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi also expressed discontent over the decision claiming that such a decision should be taken with regard to eastern Uttar Pradesh also, in line with principles of “natural justice.”

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