New Delhi, May 16, 2019 - Cracking the whip, Election Commission of India on Wednesday cut short the campaign period of nine Lok Sabha seats in Bengal, which will go to polls on May 19, Sunday.
The move comes a day after violence during a roadshow by Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah on Tuesday in Kolkata and a multitude of clashes, murders and shootings in the run-up to Sunday's polls.
Poll campaign, the EC ordered, will come to an end at 2200 hours on Thursday, almost 19 hours ahead of the scheduled time.
The Commission said it had taken the decision after an orgy of pre-poll violence in the state. It, the poll panel said, was also “deeply anguished at the vandalism done to the statue of iconic leader Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. It is hoped that the vandals are traced by the state administration”.
The poll body also took the decision to relieve ADG CID Rajeev Kumar and Principal Secretary, Home, Atri Bhattacharya from their responsibilities.
Mr Kumar has been asked to report at the Union Home Ministry at national capital by 1000 hours on Thursday.
“Atri Bhattacharya, Principal Secretary, Home and Hill Affairs stands relieved from his current charge immediately for having interfered in the process of conducting the election by directing CEO, West Bengal. State Chief Secretary shall look after the charge of Home Secretary”, Deputy Election Commissioners
Sudeep Jain and Chandrabhushan Kumar told a news conference here Wednesday night.
The Commission also said that ‘this is probably the first time that the poll body has invoked Article 324 in this manner but it may not be last in cases of repetition of lawlessness and violence which vitiate the conduct of polls in a peaceful manner”.
Mr Jain said Chief secretary of West Bengal Moloy Dey will look after the office of the home secretary until May 19.
Addressing a rally at Diamond Harbour on Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the entire country has seen how TMC has converted 'gantantra' (republic) to 'goondatantra' (hooliganism). Mr Modi said,“In West Bengal, your vote will decide if the decades old politics of bloodshed in the state will stop or not.” The Prime Minister accused TMC of "facilitating" violence in the state. "We're facing stones, our workers are being hung. We are only tolerating all of this to save Bengal," he said.
Earlier in the day, a delegation of Trinamool leaders, led by party spokesperson Derek O’Brien approached the Commission and submitted video footage to back their allegation that BJP members had vandalised Bengal icon Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s statue during a clash.
In the morning, Mr Amit Shah had alleged that TMC workers vandalised Vidayasagar’s statue to get sympathy as Ms Banerjee’s government is facing defeat in the state.
Polling has been completed in 33 out of the 42 constituencies of the state. Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jaynagar, Mathurapur, Jadavpur, Diamond Harbour, South and North Kolkata, will vote in the final phase, on May 19, Sunday. The mandate is to be announced on May 23, Thursday.
Meanwhile, Bengal government informed the Supreme Court that BJP leader Priyanka Sharma was released at 0940 hrs on Wednesday.
The Bengal Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha leader was arrested for sharing on her Facebook account a morphed photograph of Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. A bench, headed by Justice Indira Banerjee, was told by Ms Sharma's counsel Neeraj Kishan Kaul, that the Bengal government did not release his client on Tuesday despite the order of the apex court. Mr Kaul said even after the Supreme Ccourt's order to free the BJP youth leader immediately, she was released in the morning. "The order was not complied with even after 22 hours," Mr Kaul told the bench. "This is not right. Why was she kept illegally in the jail after our orders?" Justice Banerjee said.