With political parties apprehending violence and unrest in poll-bound West Bengal, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora on Friday said the commission has zero-tolerance to money and muscle power and misuse of the government machinery. The CEC also said no civic police volunteers will be deployed for the upcoming assembly elections in the state.
"The commission has zero-tolerance to money and muscle power or misuse of government machinery," the CEC told reporters in Kolkata. He said the EC's expenditure observer will take steps to prevent misuse of money power.
The full bench of the ECI, which is currently in the state to review preparedness for the assembly polls due in April-May, held meetings with representatives of political parties, senior government officials and police officers. Asked about incidents of violence ahead of the assembly elections in the state, Arora said, "We would like to review events of serious crimes which have political overtones and examine them on a case-to-case basis." To a related question about the EC taking action against those involved in incidents of hurling stones at political meetings and processions, the CEC said, "The commission can act only after the election dates are announced. We will take a series of measures and not allow bike rallies after the model code of conduct comes into force." Claiming that West Bengal is witnessing political violence in the run-up to the elections, opposition parties have urged the full bench of the ECI to ensure that free and fair polls are held in the state.
The ruling Trinamool Congress alleged that the BSF is threatening people in the border areas of the state to cast their votes in favour of a particular political party. The Border Security Force, however, denied the TMC's allegation, saying that it was "baseless" and "far from the truth".
Describing the allegation against the BSF as "unfortunate", Arora said it is one of the finest forces in the country. He said the political party concerned should come up with facts to support its allegation.
Several parties voiced concerns over law and order situation in the state, while issues like fake news on social media and provocative slogans with communal overtone have also been flagged by them, the CEC said. Asked about allegations that a large number of electors were not allowed to cast votes in the 2018 Panchayat polls, Arora said the State Election Commission conducts the polls to the local bodies.
"The ECI will ensure that there is no irregularity and every voter is allowed to cast vote in a free and fair manner in the assembly polls. We know how to get it done," he said. Arora said the full bench of the ECI asked the state's chief secretary and home secretary to look into the issues of fake information in the social media raised by political parties.
According to the CEC, the chief secretary and the home secretary of the state said that they are following the EC's guidelines in letter and spirit. He said there will be 1,01,790 polling stations for the 2021 assembly elections in the state and every booth should be made accessible to all persons with disabilities.