Strongly rejecting West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee‘s allegations of irregularities at a polling booth in Nandigram on April 1, the Election Commission of India Sunday called her complaint “factually incorrect” and claimed that her “narrative” construed “misdemeanor.”
On April 1, Banerjee, who is contesting from Nandigram, was held up for more than two hours at a polling booth in Boyal, as supporters of the ruling Trinamool and BJP nearly came to blows. The wheelchair-bound CM could move out only after a large contingent of Central forces and police personnel reached the site. Later, Banerjee blamed outsiders for creating trouble and accused the EC of not acting on complaints lodged by her party of alleged irregularities in the polling process in Nandigram.
The EC said Banerjee’s letter alleging booth capturing and the presence of outsiders at the booth was “preceded by a massive coverage all over the country which showed dozens of audio-visual shots of your being in this polling station and literally hurling an avalanche of allegations on some officials working with the government of West Bengal itself, paramilitary forces and eventually the Election Commission”.
The letter, signed by EC Secretary General Umesh Sinha, said it was a matter of “deep regret” that a “media narrative was sought to be weaved hour after hour to misguide the biggest stakeholders, which is the voters, by a candidate who also happens to be CM of the state. At least this should have been appreciated that the side show was fraught with immense potential to have adverse impact on law and order across Bengal and maybe some other States. All this was being done when the election process was/is on. There could not have been a greater misdemeanour”.
Listing out the sequence of events of the day, between 7 am and 3 pm, the EC said that barring a few people shouting slogans for and against Mamata Banerjee, “there was no report of any violence nor was there any intimidation of voters”.
The Commission, citing reports of its special observers, also refuted the allegation that the Trinamool agent for the booth was prevented from doing his job.
“In so far as the absence of AITMC election agent is concerned, the report of the District Officers mentions true great lengths to which the district administration went to ensure the presence of the polling agent, but to no avail,” the letter said, adding “the ECI cannot force anyone unwilling to work as a polling agent”.
The EC also said that there was no evidence to suggest that BSF jawans who were deployed in the polling station indulged in “inappropriate behaviour” and the complaint that they did not allow voters to go inside the booth was “far from the truth”.
Noting that there was a CCTV camera present inside the booth, the EC said the reports of officials at various levels made no mention of “either outsiders or guns and goons capturing the said booth”.
“It is self-evident from the perusal of all the reports that the allegations mentioned in your hand-written note are factually incorrect, without any empirical evidence whatsoever and devoid of substance,” the EC letter said.