The West Bengal government has informed the Election Commission that it shall, as directed by the latter, provide security to the returning officer of Nandigram assembly constituency where runner-up Mamata Banerjee has questioned the counting process and threatened to move court challenging the election rival Suvendu Adhikari.
The Election Commission sought this protection in the wake of protests by AITC supporters in Nandigram against the counting process as well as against the RO’s decision to reject the AITC agent’s demand for a recount.
The protection for the officer, the state government apprised the Election Commission on Monday, would be both in-person and at his home.
On its part, the Election Commission wrote another letter to the West Bengal chief secretary on Tuesday, seeking all appropriate measures to keep a strict watch and monitor the security detail provided to the returning officer, on a regular basis. “He should also be extended appropriate medical support/counselling,” an Election Commission official stated in the communication.
On Monday, Banerjee had claimed that the Nandigram RO had not ordered recounting of votes as “he feared for his life”.
She cited an SMS claiming to have been sent by the RO to an unidentified person on Sunday night, stating: “Sir, it is not in my purview. Sir, please save my family. My familly will ruin (sic). I have no other option but to commit suicide. Life threat is coming. Please forgive me. I have a little daughter.”
On Tuesday, the Election Commission sought to caution the West Bengal government that “any pressure or harm or even perception or furtherance of any such narrative shall have serious implications on the entire machinery deployed during the elections”. It directed that the officers performing election duty must be given due protection etc. so that no harm is caused to any of them.
The poll panel asked the West Bengal chief secretary and chief electoral officer to personally monitor and ensure and assure the Election Commission about necessary arrangements for the Nandigram RO’s security and send a report in this regard by 6 PM on Tuesday.
The Election Commission added that it had already directed the West Bengal chief electoral officer to ensure the safe custody of all election records including polled EVM/VVPAT. video recordings, statutory papers, counting records etc. strictly in accordance with laid down guidelines and instructions of the Commission. “He will also coordinate with the state government for additional security measures at such locations if required,” it added.