Nandigram RO refused recount as he got ‘life threat’, says Mamata Banerjee

Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee on Monday alleged massive electoral malpractices in Nandigram, claiming that a returning officer had alleged a threat to his life while turning down Trinamool pleas for a recount and wondering how her lead of 8,000-plus votes “suddenly became zero” after a server breakdown and a power cut.

Banerjee questioned the Election Commission’s “interest” in denying even a recount and said she would “definitely move court” against the decision. “How can an 8,000-vote lead suddenly become zero? The (EC) servers were down for four hours, there was no power for 40 minutes. The EVMs were changed,” she said, adding that the counting was supervised by “two very biased (EC) observers”.

“A returning officer sent an SMS at 11 pm on Sunday night. I will not say to whom this was sent,” Banerjee said, reading out the message that came to her as a forward: “Sir, it is not my purview. Sir, please save my family. My family will ruin (sic). I have no other option but to commit suicide. Life threat is coming. I may be murdered. I had nothing to do. Please forgive me, I have a little daughter.”

TOI later contacted the returning officer (a DM), who declined to speak on the issue and requested that he not be named. EC officials in Kolkata refused to speak on the issue. “Can you understand what took place? The returning officer is saying it is a question of life and death. He was working at gunpoint,” Banerjee said.

“What is there to fear in a recount? Why did the EC not allow this? What is their interest? All the journalists saw (what happened). The governor called me. And then everything turned upside down. I haven’t seen such mafiagiri. I want justice to prevail. Will definitely move court,” she said,
Banerjee said that the BJP would not have crossed even the 50-seat mark if the EC was fair. “The rest of the 77 seats are the EC’s contribution,” Banerjee said.

The EC website late on Sunday said Banerjee lost to her BJP rival, Suvendu Adhikari, by 1,956 votes. EC sources had also indicated that a result announced by a returning officer could be challenged only in a court and the EC could not do anything.

Banerjee demanded that all postal ballots, EVMs and VVPATs involved in the Nandigram vote be kept separately and sealed. “There should be forensic tests if the seals are tampered with. They should be kept in safe custody,” she said.

“I am happy that the Supreme Court has upheld the Madras High Court order (on the EC’s handling of the Covid situation). People depend on courts for justice,” Banerjee said, referring to the apex court’s denial of an EC plea to stop media from reporting judges’ oral observations.
“People have decided that BJP is not Shahenshah. I thank Bengal’s people (all religions and linguistic groups) for showing that their spine is still very strong. Our mothers and sisters have shown us the path,” Banerjee said.

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