The Election Commission of India (ECI), in a big move, announced on Wednesday evening that no election campaigning would be held in nine parliamentary constituencies of West Bengal – Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jaynagar, Mathurapur, Jadavpur, Diamond Harbour, South and North Kolkata from 10 pm Thursday ahead of the May 19 polls. The EC invoked Article 324 to come to the decision.
Campaigning for the last phase of Lok Sabha elections was scheduled to end on Friday.
As per the orders of the ECI, all campaign in West Bengal would come to an end on Thursday at 10 pm.
An official of the ECI while addressing the media said, “This is probably the first time that ECI 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.
“The Commission is deeply anguished at the vandalism done to the statue of Vidyasagar. It is hoped that the vandals are traced by the state administration.”
The ECI also removed West Bengal Principal Secretary (Home) Atri Bhattacharya and Additional Director General (CID) Rajeev Kumar with immediate effect after it received adverse reports and inputs from the state authorities.
The EC official said, “ADG CID, Rajiv Kumar stands relieved and attached to MHA. He should report to MHA by 10 am tomorrow. Principal Secretary, Home &Health Affairs WB government stands relieved from his current charge immediately for having interfered in the process of conducting polls by directing WB CEO. Chief Secretary will look after the Home Department.”
According to sources, the decision has been taken in view of the simmering tension between the BJP and the TMC following the violent clashes that broke out on Tuesday during BJP National President Amit Shah’s roadshow in Kolkata.
It is reported that the clashes erupted when Shah’s roadshow reached Calcutta University where some students reportedly showed black flags to Shah, irking students aligned to the BJP.
The BJP has repeatedly accused the TMC of inciting incidents of violence against its party workers and leaders in the state.
As the BJP and TMC supporters on Tuesday fought pitched battles on the streets of Kolkata during Amit Shah’s roadshow, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee claimed the violence was triggered by the goons the BJP had brought from outside Bengal.
Shah’s convoy was attacked with stones by alleged TMC supporters from inside the hostel of Vidyasagar College, triggering a clash between the supporters of the two parties, officials said.
Several motorcycles parked outside were vandalised and set ablaze. Shards of broken glass littered the lobby of the college where a bust of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was smashed to pieces.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC), on Wednesday, accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of provoking Tuesday’s violence. At a press conference in New Delhi’s Constitution Club, TMC MPs led by Derek O’Brien claimed that the violence was carried out by “BJP goons from outside”.