Kolkata: The Election Commission is increasingly getting tougher in dealing with the problematic West Bengal administration. Now the commission has removed two officials from election duty in Diamond Harbour just before the election of the seventh phase in the State. This is the constituency of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee.
The commission removed SDPO of Diamond Harbour Mithun Kumar Day and office in-charge at the Amherst Street Kaushik Das from election duty on Thursday evening with immediate effect. This seat is considered a Trinamool stronghold.
Situated on the banks of the Hooghly river in the South 24 Parganas district, the constituency was a Left pocket borough since the late sixties until the Trinamool, riding on winds of change, breached it in 2009 with then Trinamool leader Somen Mitra snatching the seat from four-time MP Samik Lahiri.
But Mitra left the Trinamool and returned to the Congress in early 2014 and is now its state unit chief.
In 2014, just three years after his baptism in politics as a leader of the Trinamool Youth Congress, Abhishek Banerjee was given ticket from this seat and won it by polling more than 40 per cent votes. Since then, he has only grown in stature within the party and is its de facto number two. This rise has not only raised some eyebrows in state politics but also among some party veterans, who allegedly feel sidelined.
Mukul Roy was one of those whose fall in Trinamool was proportional to Abhishek Banerjee’s rise. Roy quit the party in 2017 to join the BJP.
Five years ago, the Trinamool’s South 24 Parganas district unit was united and worked together to ensure that Abhishek Banerjee wins by a huge margin. But since then, much water has flown down the river Hooghly and the scenario within the ruling party and in the state has changed drastically.
The Trinamool Congress, which was then literally unchallenged in Bengal is now facing a tough fight from the BJP, with chief minister’s nephew being one of the target. The inner-bickering of the ruling party has also come out in open.
According to a Trinamool leader, who did not wish to be named, Abhishek Banerjee’s victory of is a foregone conclusion but “what bothers the party is whether it would be able to increase the margin or not”.
The storm yesterday
On Wednesday, the Election Commission had taken the big decision to curtail the time of election campaign by 24 hours. Several opposition parties had strongly criticized the decision of the commission.
On Tuesday, there was a furore over the roadshow of BJP president Amit Shah in Kolkata. First, the BJP and Trinamool blamed each other for violence at the roadshow. Then, vandalising of a bust of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar became national news.
The Election Commission also removed home secretary Atri Bhattacharya and ADG of CID Rajeev Kumar.
“This would be the first time when 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 and orderly manner,” deputy election commissioner Sudeep Jain said.
The eight-page order read: “Now, therefore, the Election Commission of India, in exercise of its powers under Article 324 of the Constitution… hereby directs that no person shall convene, hold, attend, join or address any public meeting or procession in connection with the election.”
“During the review with the observers, it clearly came out that while logistics arrangements… are mostly on track… there is distinct resistance and non-cooperation from the district administration and district police when it comes to providing level playing field to all candidates for campaigning and in providing a fearless and free environment to the voters,” read the order.
“They pointed out that utterances of the AITC (Trinamool Congress) senior leaders on the lines of ‘central forces will leave at the end of elections, while we will remain, sends a chilling message among the officers as well as voters alike,” it said referring to the report of special observers Ajay Nayak, a former IAS, and Vivek Dubey, a retired IPS.
Jain said the commission was “deeply anguished” at the vandalism done to the statue of Ishwarchandra Bandyopadhyay (Vidyasagar was a title conferred to him). “Besides his many other achievements as a philosopher, academic educator, writer and philanthropist, he worked all his life in the cause of widow remarriage which was unthought and unheard of in the ultra-conservative society of those days. It is hoped that the vandals are traced by the state administration,” the deputy election commissioner said.
The constituencies where campaigning has been curtailed are Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jaynagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata Dakshin and Kolkata Uttar.
The order on curtailment of the campaigning was signed by Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and Election Commissioners Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra.
On 19 May 9 seats of West Bengal are going to poll.