West Bengal’s opposition parties Wednesday attacked the Election Commission and the state’s special observer Sudhir Kumar Rakesh for failing to hold free and fair Lok Sabha election in the state and for turning down the demand for repoll in most booths.
Accusing the ruling Trinamool Congress of indulging in “massive rigging and booth capturing”, the main opposition Left Front, headed by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), had sought repoll in about 3,200 polling booths, a demand supported by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress.
However, the Election Commission ordered repoll in only 20 booths covering all the five phases in the state.
The Trinamool dubbed the repoll demand “laughable”.
Asked about the role of the special observer, CPI-M politburo member Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said: “The observers have done a serious criminal offence”.
“They left helpless people before violent attacks of the ruling party. Now, they are behaving like heroes with a smiling face,” he said.
In a letter to Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath, Left Front chairman Biman Bose claimed that in the fifth and last phase involving 17 constituencies in the state, a sizeable number of booths were “captured” by Trinamool workers “who established total control on the polling process”.
The letter alleged that the Trinamool leaders “muzzled officials and coerced voters to vote against their wishes for benefit of Trinamool candidates. Of the 31,392 booths involved in the last phase, nearly 1,500 booths were affected”.
“It was a one-sided match, with both the state administration and the EC watching from the sidelines instead of stepping in for the sake of a free and fair election,” the letter said.
Giving details of the “loot” of electoral photo identity cards and voters’ slips, “unmanned” sensitive and highly sensitive booths, attack on opposition polling agents, and stark and ruthless violence”, it demanded repoll in about 1,500 booths.
State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury accused Rakesh of having “stigmatised” the image of the poll panel and alleged that he did not initiate necessary steps needed to ensure free and fair polls.
“He should be charged with dereliction of duty. He should have resigned,” he said.
State BJP president Rahul Sinha demanded a probe into the “doubtful” and “irresponsible” role played by Rakesh.
On the other hand, Trinamool national spokesperson Derek O’Brien in a statement ridiculed the Marxist party’s demand as one that mocked the “sanctity of the voting process and the integrity of the voter”, and claimed the polls were “free and fair”.
“The demand by the CPI-M for re-polling in 3,000 booths that saw voting in the recent free-and-fair Lok Sabha election in West Bengal is not only laughable but mocks the sanctity of the voting process and the integrity of the voter.”
He said the three years of Trinamool rule in the state has been marked by “able and resolute governance”, and exuded governance that the effort would be rewarded by the people when the votes are counted May 16.
He alleged that the opposition parties – CPI-M, Congress and the BJP – have realised “their antics have not worked”, and they are certain to be “wiped out”.