Allegations of bias among central security forces’ personnel deployed for West Bengal polls must be addressed
While claim of impartiality of the central forces was questioned during first two phases of polls in the state, during the third phase, their conduct was said to be most unprofessional and alarming
Deploying a huge contingent of central security forces in West Bengal for the Assembly polls, Home Minister Amit Shah assured the state’s people that it would ensure peaceful, fair and free elections. But his high sounding promises have turned out to be a delusion.
While the claim of impartiality of the central forces was questioned during the first two phases of the Assembly election, during the third phase, their conduct was said to be most unprofessional and alarming. In almost all the polling booths spread over 31 constituencies in three districts, the personnel were either found to be trying to prevent pro-TMC voters to go the polling stations or asking the voters to cast their votes in favour of the BJP.
Even West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, campaigning in north Bengal during the day, tweeted a video claiming that central forces on poll duty in Bengal were trying to secure votes for BJP. “The blatant misuse of central forces continues unabated. Despite us repeatedly raising this issue, EC continued to be a mute spectator while men in uniform are being misused at several places to openly intimidate TMC voters and influence many to vote in favour of one party,” she tweeted.
In most of the booths, the central forces preferred to maintain a passive attitude to the misdemeanour of the BJP cadres to drive away TMC’s polling agents. In some places, they threatened even the TMC’s candidates to leave the place.
Trinamool nominee in Arambagh in Hooghly Sujata Khan Mandal was chased by a group of alleged BJP supporters at Mahallapara, Arandi, where she had gone to look into complaints of rigging in some booths. Mondal is the wife of BJP leader Saumitra Khan. She is fighting on a TMC ticket. “My bodyguards saved my life… I came to know that BJP members were thwarting people from casting their votes in Arandi. I went there to find out what went wrong. I was assaulted, hit with bamboo sticks by saffron party men,” Mondal said.
Khan alleged: “The BJP had plans to rig the booths and would not allow any of our voters to step out of their homes. Once I reached there, villagers started coming out of their homes to vote. BJP goons chased me with lathis and I had to run to the fields to escape”. She claimed some of the blows landed on her neck and back. She also demanded that voting be declared void in two of the booths.
State minister and Trinamool nominee Nirmal Maji alleged that two of his security personnel were injured in brick-batting at Mukti chowk in Uluberia North.
Sunil Roy, a 72-year-old Trinamool leader passed away on Tuesday while on his way back from the booth after casting his vote. Bikash Roy, his son and Trinamool’s booth agent in Hatpukur, Goghat, alleged a group of BJP supporters had heckled him while he was leaving the booth.
The Election Commission, which was quite pro-active during the second phase of polling in Nandigram, was conspicuously not visible during the third phase. The villagers of Howrah, Hoogly and 24 Paraganas frantically tried to meet the officials and complain about the attitude of the central forces but could not succeed. The villagers in Hooghly complained that nearly 600 voters could not cast their votes as they were forced by the security forces to go back. The villagers could not muster courage to face the security forces.
As during the second phase, PM Narendra Modi addressed at least three public meetings while the third phase of polling was on. Poor attendance, with people keeping away from the meetings, did not dampen his spirit and he launched a high velocity diatribe against Mamata.
Modi, addressing a rally in Cooch Behar, claimed that a BJP wave was blowing across Bengal and that his party would form the next government, adding that Mamata's angry reactions indicated that she had lost the polls.
Modi even predicted that Trinamool Congress will disintegrate after May 2. In Howrah, the PM claimed that anger against TMC leaders among own party workers was erupting daily. At a rally in North Bengal’s Cooch Behar district on Tuesday, the PM took a swipe at Mamata Banerjee, saying “Didi, recently you said all Muslims should unite and not allow their votes to be divided. You are saying this means that you are convinced that the Muslim votebank has also gone out of your hands. They have also turned away from you. The fact that you had to say this publicly shows that you have lost the elections,” said Modi.
On this occasion, Modi said, “Had we asked the Hindus to unite and vote for the BJP, we would have got eight or ten notices from the Election Commission. Editorials would have been written about us in the entire country.”
With the BJP terrorising the male booth agents of TMC and resorting to use of violence to prevent them from coming to the booths Mamata Banerjee has directed her party leaders to depute women as polling agents to replace “cowards” who leave booths unguarded on vote day in the face of alleged threats from the BJP.
Her directive came after her party failed to depute polling agents in some 28 polling stations in Nandigram on April 1. She said: “I am not ready to listen to excuses like BJP’s threats or BJP’s attacks for not (someone from Trinamool) being present at the booth on the day of polling. I request those who are not brave, please don’t go to the booth. I am asking you (leaders) to depute women as polling agents in a booth. Assign my Kanyashree sisters, my students as polling agents,” at a rally in Hooghly’s Khanakul.
She also revealed the reason for her going to the polling booth in Nandigram’s Boyal on April 1 and staying there for over “two hours”. She said that it was to foil the BJP’s “plan” to capture 70 booths with the help of the police or BJP supporters in police uniforms. She said: “They had planned to cast false votes in 70 booths. I did not enter inside the booth but waited outside. I know the rule. Let the (Election) Commission send me a notice.
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