New Delhi: Political parties in West Bengal are going to be running the last leg of their campaigning in the state with the Election Commission advancing the deadline by a day in view of poll-related violence in the state. Campaigning for nine West Bengal constituencies will end at 10 PM on Thursday. (Catch Complete Coverage of Lok Sabha Elections 2019 Here)
However, this has led the Opposition to attack the poll body, asking why campaigning wasn’t stopped right away, why the EC allowed it for Thursday as well.
This is the first time that the EC ordered an early end of campaigning because of clashes between BJP and TMC workers in Kolkata. The poll body invoked Article 324 of the Constitution to curtail canvassing. It also removed two senior state officials in the state — Principal Secretary (Home) Atri Bhattacharya and Additional Director General, CID, Rajeev Kumar.
At a press conference here on Wednesday, Deputy Election Commissioner Chandra Bhushan Kumar said, “This is probably the first time that the EC has invoked Article 324 in this manner but it may not be the last in cases of repetition of lawlessness and violence, which vitiate the conduct of polls in a peaceful manner.”
Meanwhile, the Opposition hasn’t taken to kindly to the decision. Congress leader Ahmed Patel tweeted, “If the situation in Bengal is so severe that campaigning must be stopped, why is EC waiting until tomorrow? Is it because PM has scheduled rallies tomorrow? Isn’t it unprecedented that EC claims it’s an unprecedented situation in West Bengal yet is waiting for PM to complete his public meetings?”
Party spokesperson R S Surjewala called it a dark day in the democracy. “Now, permit Modiji’s rallies on 16th & ban all others. This is a shameful fall for a once independent Constitutional Body.”
CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury asked, “If a ban is intended for 72 hours, why is it starting at 10 PM tomorrow? Is it to allow the two rallies of the PM before that?”
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted, “Time to wake up, India. People of Bengal will give a befitting reply to Modi-Shah led perpetrators of violence and hooliganism.”
Both BJP and TMC have traded charges of inciting the violence at BJP president Amit Shah’s roadshow in Kolkata. The state capital had witnessed a major law and order crisis after a large number of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) members clashed with Trinamool Congress Chhatra Parishad (TMCP) supporters at College Street.
Attacking the EC for its decision, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee said it was an “unprecedented, unconstitutional and unethical gift” to PM Modi and BJP president Amit Shah by the poll panel. Banerjee, also the chief minister, said she had never seen this type of EC which is “biased and full of RSS people”.
Meanwhile, BJP chief Amit Shah held a press conference where he alleged that the EC was behaving like “a mute spectator” when TMC cadres were flouting electoral norms and engaging in violence in West Bengal.