West Bengal campaign freeze: Sparks fly as EC cracks down state officials for interfering in poll process

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Published: May 16, 2019 11:10:19 AM

The Election Commission decision to curtail the campaign time in West Bengal and shunt top officials of the Trinamool Congress government comes a day after widespread violence in Kolkata during BJP president Amit Shah's roadshow.

Election Commission, Mamata BanerjeeMamata Banerjee has said that Election Commission decisions are aimed to benefit the BJP and PM Narendra Modi.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Wednesday invoked Article 324 of the Constitution to order that the election campaign in West Bengal for the seventh and final phase will end at 10 pm on Thursday, 24 hours before the schedule. The commission also removed with immediate effect West Bengal’s Principal Secretary (Home) Atri Bhattacharya for having interfered in the poll process. Besides, it also relieved former Kolkata Police Commissioner and controversial IPS officer Rajeev Kumar from his post of ADG CID and asked him to report to the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi on Thursday morning.

The decision to curtail the campaign time and shunt top officials of the West Bengal government comes a day after widespread violence in Kolkata during BJP president Amit Shah’s roadshow. The poll body said that it invoked Article 324 of the Constitution for the first time. The Aerticle grants it special powers to control and issue directions for the conduct of free and fair elections.

“This is probably the first time that ECI has invoked Article 324 in this manner but it may not be the last in case of repetition of lawlessness and violence which vitiate the conduct of polls,” the Election Commission said in a press conference on Wednesday evening.

A total of nine constituencies in West Bengal will go to polls in the seventh and last phase on May 19. The constituencies are — Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jaynagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata (South) and Kolkata (North).

The Election Commission’s decision invited shard criticism from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who said that the move was politically motivated and was taken to benefit the Bharatiya Janata Party. Accusing the poll panel of doing the PM’s bidding, Mamata said that decision to remove two senior officers were also taken at the behest of BJP president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She also alleged that RSS people have been inducted into the Election Commission.

The Congress too slammed the EC’s decision, terming it an “unpardonable betrayal of the Constitution”. Party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the decision has been taken to benefit BJP and allow PM Modi to campaign on Thursday while programmes of other leaders have been affected. The EC decisions came a day after Amit Shah’s roadshow in Kolkata was hit by violent clashes between the BJP and TMC workers near Vidyasagar College.

Reports said that EC’s decision to remove two Bengal government officials was taken after poll body’s special observer Vivek Dubey in his report said that Arti and Rajeev interfered in the poll process.

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