West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee‘s comments about the Election Commission at a rally in Bankura yesterday has brought a prompt response from the poll body, which said her statements seeking meetings are “belittling” it.
The exchange marks a new low in the ongoing exchange of statements between the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) and the Election Commission. It had started after the poll body replaced the state police chief earlier this month.
In a stinker of a letter, Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain wrote, “Notwithstanding the above meetings in Kolkata and in Delhi, if it is stated by the honourable chief minister that the commission should meet political parties, it is only an attempt to belittle the institution of commission with repeated innuendos and averments.”
Jain wrote that the Election Commission “maintains the position that they would not like to keep on being put in the dock for alleged proximity to any political entity etc. However, if CM persists in creating and attempting to perpetuate this myth for reasons best known to her, it is singularly unfortunate, and it is only for the chief minister to adjudge as to why she is doing so.”
Since the removal of the police chief, the AITC has repeatedly made adverse comments about the Election Commission. At the rally yesterday, Banerjee did not mince words while saying, “I am asking with respect to the Election Commission. Who is running the Election Commission? Amit Shah, are you running it? We want a free and fair election but who is Amit Shah? Who is he to guide the Election Commission? He is interfering in the work of the Election Commission… And this is working against us. My security in-charge has also been removed. What do they want? Do they want to kill me?” she had said.
The AITC has been firing these salvos since the chief minister got injured in Nandigram — multiple versions of the incident, more than one of Mamata Banerjee herself, abound — last Wednesday. Its reactions grew shriller with the refusal by the Election Commission to accept the party’s claim that it was the result on an attempt on her life, saying there was no evidence.
The chief minister has, in what appears a strategic move, hit the campaign trail in a wheelchair, advertising her plastered leg. At every rally, she has been speaking of how the Left Front government had tried to intimidate her with physical assaults and likening the CPM-led regime to her new challenger, the BJP.
“I have been injured in the head many times. I have been injured in the hips many times. I have overcome all those injuries. If I give in to my pain and lie down then BJP will cause pain for the people. I feel people’s pain is more important than my pain,” she said in Bankura yesterday.
In the letter, Jain indicated the poll body had been through some media reports of the rally, where the chief minister raised “some of these issues”, mentioned earlier in a letter to the Election Commission, sent on 14 March.
“In the absence of an authorised text” of the rally speech, they were responding to the Chief Minister’s letter, he wrote, enclosing a copy of the report after which they had suspended Banerjee’s security in-charge Vivek Sahay.
The Election Commission said the chief minister had met with an accident and held Sahay responsible for the violation of her Z-Plus security protocol. Mamata Banerjee’s bullet-proof car was occupied by the security in-charge, the Commission had said.
The report it enclosed also mentioned the lack of prompt response from her driver and her security personnel when her vehicle was surrounded by a crowd.