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Governor’s Report Warning of a Bloody Election Behind EC Move to Hold 7-phase Polls in Bengal

Governor Keshri Nath Tripathi's report pointed out the violence that took place during the panchayat polls last year and the increased incidence of clashes in the state between the Trinamool Congress and BJP over the past few months.

Aniruddha Ghosal | News18.com@aniruddhg1

Updated:March 12, 2019, 5:01 PM IST
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Governor’s Report Warning of a Bloody Election Behind EC Move to Hold 7-phase Polls in Bengal
A scene of post-poll violence in Nadia district of Bengal (PTI Photo)
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New Delhi: The West Bengal governor recently wrote a report to the Prime Minister and Home Minister, which was then sent to the President warning of “potential violence” in the state in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, said sources.

This report, the sources said, was key in the Election Commission’s decision to spread polls in the state over seven phases.

The election commissioner and the home secretary is said to have met ahead of announcing the dates. A key consideration was the availability of paramilitary forces Bengal and their ability to move from one Lok Sabha seat to the next, said an official.

After the panchayat polls, West Bengal governor Keshri Nath Tripathi had called the state chief secretary and home secretary to tackle the growing issue of alleged political violence.

“However chief minister Mamata Banerjee was not very happy with what she thought was interference and had asked her officials to not attend the meetings or share any reports with him. The governor had also written several letters to the chief secretary on the issues of law and order in the state,” said a state government official.

The governor’s report pointed out the violence that took place during the panchayat polls last year and the increased incidence of clashes in the state between the Trinamool Congress and BJP over the past few months.

BJP leader Mukul Roy was among the four booked by the Bengal police in February for their alleged involvement in the murder of TMC MLA Satyajit Biswas in Nadia district.

Denying the charge, the BJP said the ruling party was responsible for the deteriorating law and order in the state.

In his report, Tripathi also warned of the possibility of “attempts to prevent a free and fair election”, said a source in the Raj Bhawan.

The opposition parties, including the BJP, have alleged the state government had actively attempted to rig the 2016 assembly polls and last year’s panchayat election.

In particular, the report raised the issue of central forces not being able to move across the state. “Constitutionally, the Bengal police needs to give the green signal for the central forces. However, intelligence inputs were taken into account and the issue of availability of paramilitary forces was a clincher,” said a source in the state poll panel.

Meanwhile, the Trinamool Congress has cried foul. Senior party leader and cabinet minister Firhad Hakim said the BJP had submitted false data on the law and order of the state to the Election Commission, forcing the poll panel to declare a seven-phase poll.

“The BJP is very happy that the election will be held with the help of the central forces. But the same was used in 2014 Lok Sabha polls too and we had won 34 seats. The Union government has intentionally misled the EC with wrong inputs about the state’s law and order.”

“This prolonged polling process will cause a lot of inconvenience to the people, especially those from the minority communities as the elections will be held in the month of Ramzan,” added Hakim.

The Bengal Congress also echoed Hakim.

State Congress president Somen Mitra Somen Mitra said, “People belonging to the minority community will suffer a lot during elections as three of the seven phases are falling in the month of Ramzan. The EC should reconsider its decision.”

The EC, however, has maintained that there is no discrepancy. Pointing out the fact that Uttar Pradesh and Bihar will also see polls in seven phases, an official in the Bengal EC said, “There is no question of any discrepancy. The decision was taken while keeping in mind the deteriorating law and order in the state.”
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