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In Battleground Bengal, Mamata Banerjee & PM Modi Engage in War of Words as Bitter Poll Campaign Ends

While Banerjee again claimed that the EC is working at the BJP's behest, PM Modi slammed her for criticising the poll body and the central forces deployed to oversee electoral duties in the state.


Updated:May 17, 2019, 10:25 AM IST

New Delhi: The political slugfest between the Trinamool Congress and BJP, following violence in Amit Shah’s roadshow in Kolkata, intensified on Thursday, with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi both addressing rallies and public meetings in the state.

These gatherings were held just before the Election Commission’s ban on campaigning came into effect from 10 pm, 20 hours ahead of schedule.

While Modi addressed two rallies — at Mathurapur in South 24 Parganas and Dum Dum in North 24 Parganas — Banerjee held two roadshows in Behala and Jadavpur areas of Kolkata and two meetings at Mathurapur and Diamond Harbour.

While Banerjee reiterated her allegations that the EC was working at the BJP's behest, Modi slammed her for criticising the poll body and the central forces deployed to oversee electoral duties in the state.

The EC on Wednesday had curtailed campaigning for the seventh and final phase of the Lok Sabha elections in the state, citing violent clashes and arson at Shah's roadshow on Tuesday evening. The violence had spilled over to the premises of Vidyasagar College, where a bust of noted reformer Ishwar Chand Vidyasagar was destroyed. Both the TMC and BJP have accused each other of having masterminded the violence.

The poll body had shunted out two senior state officers on Tuesday, with two others removed on Thursday as well.

Targeting the poll body, Banerjee, in one of her meetings on Thursday, said campaigning was curtailed over the BJP's complaints.

“Based on the BJP’s complaints, the EC has curtailed the poll campaign in Bengal by a day. The EC has become the BJP’s brother. Not just me, the entire country is saying that it (EC) has been sold out to the BJP. It can arrest me if it wants. I am not afraid to speak the truth,” she said.

Meanwhile, in Dum Dum, Modi said the EC and central forces had helped Banerjee come to power by overthrowing the Left Front government.

"Today, Didi is abusing the Election Commission and central forces," he said. "But why you are forgetting that the same thing was done to you by CPI (M) and then it was due to the active role played by the EC and central forces that you managed to win against the Left rule in Bengal?"

A united Opposition also threw its weight behind Banerjee and accused the poll body of bowing to the BJP. The Congress on Thursday said the EC had lost its credibility and independence, and the time had come to review the process of its appointment.

A delegation of Opposition leaders also approached the poll body to list their grievances.

Polling will be held on Sunday in the remaining nine constituencies of south Bengal where an estimated 1,49,63,064 voters will decide the fate of 111 candidates, the EC said. Kolkata North and South, Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jadavpur, Diamond Harbour, Jaynagar (SC) and Mathurapur (SC) seats will go to polls in the final phase.

The high-voltage electoral campaign in West Bengal has been marred by violence, with three poll-related deaths reported from the six phases so far. In an unprecedented development, the EC had deployed 770 companies of central forces to oversee the sixth phase, the largest such deployment until now.

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| Edited by: Sana Fazili
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