A furious Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday lashed out at the Election Commission for curtailing campaigning in West Bengal, saying the poll body was functioning on the behest of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In a first such action in India’s electoral history, the Election Commission on Wednesday invoked Article 324 and announced that no election campaigning would be held in nine parliamentary constituencies of West Bengal — Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jaynagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata Dakshin and Kolkata Uttar –from 10 pm Thursday ahead of the May 19 polls.
Campaigning for the last phase of Lok Sabha elections was scheduled to end on Friday.
The decision comes in the wake of 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.
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.
Tearing into the poll body, the West Bengal chief minister said the poll body’s decision to curtail campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections in the state and remove two senior officers was one taken on the direction of the BJP, its president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Calling the decision “unethical, unconstitutional, undemocratic and biased”, Mamata Banerjee said, “Tomorrow, Modi has two meetings in Bengal. When he finishes, the campaigning also ends… Instead of punishing Amit Shah, the Election Commission has given a gift to the BJP”.
Mamata further declared she would not be silenced, and said the decision taken under section 324 of the Representation of the People Act to curtail the campaign period was not legal as there was no law and order problem in her state.
Earlier on Tuesday, BJP and TMC supporters fought pitched battles on the streets of Kolkata during Amit Shah’s roadshow.
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.
Mamata Banerjee had claimed the violence was triggered by the goons the BJP had brought from outside Bengal.
Amit Shah in return, had accused the Trinamool of attacking his roadshow as a part of a “conspiracy”.
In Bengal, the Trinamool and the BJP are locked in an intense battle for 42 Lok Sabha seats.
West Bengal which has a history of violence during polls is voting in all the seven phases.