POLITICS

Under attack from BJP, EC orders curtailment of campaign in West Bengal; removes 2 top officials

The Election Commission informed mediapersons in New Delhi that it had invoked Article 324, probably the first time that the apex poll body has used the law

Firefighters dousing flames in Kolkata after BJP supporters allegedly clashed with Trinamool supporters during Amit Shah’s road show on Tuesday/Twitter

Agencies

In an unprecedented step, the Election Commission on Wednesday ordered end to poll campaign from 10 p.m. on Thursday in West Bengals remaining 9 Lok Sabha constituencies which go to the polls on May 19, cutting it short by a day in view of the widespread violence witnessed in the state.

The Election Commission (EC) also relieved with immediate effect West Bengal's Principal Secretary (Home) Atri Bhattacharya for "having interfered in the process of conducting elections."

Rajeev Kumar, ADG CID, was also relieved from his post and attached to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi, with orders to report on duty at 10 a.m. on Thursday.

The EC invoked, for the first time, Article 324 of the Constitution, which gives the poll panel special powers to control and give directions for holding elections.

"There will be no election campaign in the 9 Parliamentary constituencies of West Bengal from 10 p.m. tomorrow till the conclusion of polls," an EC official said at a press conference here.

The campaigning would have normally ended at 5 p.m. on Friday, like at the 50 other seats across six states and one Union Territory which go to the polls in the final phase on May 19.

The decisions have been "taken as an action on violence in West Bengal on Tuesday," the EC official said.

"The Election Commission is deeply anguished over the vandalisation of Vidyasagar's statue," the official added.

The decision comes a day after widespread violence was witnessed in Kolkata during a roadshow conducted by BJP President Amit Shah.

EC’s decision came on the same day when BJP President Amit Shah attacked the EC, terming it a “mute spectator” amid reports of political clashes during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

"The Election Commission has been a mute spectator. Everywhere in the country history-sheeters are apprehended ahead of polls. But in West Bengal they are roaming free... Not a single one has been caught so far. I seriously question the Election Commission's neutrality in Bengal," he said.

Senior BJP leaders also made a representation to the EC earlier in the day as they urged the top election body to act against the ruling Trinamool Congress.

The constituencies -- Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jaynagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata (South) and Kolkata (North) -- are going to the polls in the seventh and last phase of Lok Sabha elections on May 19.

"This is probably the first time that the EC has invoked Article 324 in this manner, but it may not be the last in case of repetition of lawlessness and violence which vitiate the conduct of polls in a peaceful manner," the official said.

The EC also said that the Chief Secretary of the state will look after the charge of the Principal Secretary (Home).

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Published: 15 May 2019, 8:35 PM