Vol. XLIII No. 17 April 28, 2019

CPI(M) Delegation Meets ECI to Ensure Free and Fair Poll

ON APRIL 22, a delegation led by Nilotpal Basu, Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M), met the chief election commissioner, Election Commission of India(ECI) and submitted a memorandum pertaining to serious poll violations in West Bengal and Tripura.

Nilotpal expressed his deep sense of disappointment and anguish over the manner in which elections were presided over by the ECI in Tripura West parliamentary constituency on April 11, 2019. He termed it as subversion of democracy in the country. He reminded the CEC of his previous meeting where he (CEC) had recognized the gravity of the situation and decided to postpone the elections of the Tripura East (ST) parliamentary constituency, which was to be held on April 18 and scheduled it for April 23. This amply proved the collapse of the law and order situation in the state, thus making it impossible for the holding of free and fair poll.

Despite several reminders and meetings with the CEC, Nilotpal said that very little has happened on the ground on behalf of the ECI, which is not even commensurate to its own assessment. The Party had made a preliminary assessment that re-polling needs to be undertaken in 464 polling booths across the constituency. However, with further evidence available, it is clear that rigging was more widespread and, for all practical purposes what happened on the April 11, was a farce.

Nilotpal also handed over the letter of Shankar Prasad Datta, the CPI(M) candidate, which was addressed to the returning officer of Tripura West parliamentary constituency demanding re-polling in 846 polling booths . Further, substantiation of the position taken by the CPI(M), stands vindicated by the official notice issued by the office of the district magistrate and collector, West Tripura district, on  April 17, announcing the lodging of FIR against the people responsible for the rigging in certain booths. These include polling agents and even polling officials of the constituency.

Thereafter many who were named in the FIRs were given bail and in some cases from the police station itself. Shankar Prasad Datta had subsequently made two representations to the returning officer on April 21 on the illegality of the actions. He had further written to the CEC on the same day to the effect that the action process of verification of video footages in the presence of all candidates and their representatives on April 12-13 was also reduced to a farce.

Nilotpal Basu reminded the CEC of the meeting between him and a delegation of the CPI(M) led by Sitaram Yechury, including other Party leaders from Tripura and the two CPI(M) candidates contesting in the state. The Party had clearly stated that the returning officer of the Tripura West parliamentary constituency was not fit to undertake polling responsibility as he had shown clear bias and partisan in shutting down a progressive Bengali daily ‘Desherkatha’, which was subsequently restored by a judicial order.

Under the present circumstances the Election Commission of India has to facilitate the process of holding free and fair polling in 846 polling booths to sustain as semblance of credibility of the election process.

Nilotpal mentioned the details of the letter written by Jitendra Choudhary, CPI(M) candidate from Tripura East (ST) parliamentary constituency to the returning officer and central police observer on April 13 on the several measures which are needed to be undertaken for ensuring free and fair poll on April 23 .

Another letter of Mohammad Salim, CPI(M) candidate from the Raiganj parliamentary constituency in West Bengal was also shared with the CEC. Salim in the letter has demanded re-polling in 28 booths in different assembly segments of the constituency. What is to be noted, is, that the circumstances in which polls were rigged in these booths confirmed the worst apprehensions communicated to the CEC on April 15. An exhaustive list of sensitive booths including the above 28 booths, which were rigged was also given to the ECI.

It is of further concern, he mentioned that in most of the rigged booths, the precautionary arrangements like, deployment of central forces, video streaming or CCTV, were absent. In some of them even electricity was not available. Salim himself was attacked on the day of the polling on April 18. The pattern in Raiganj has been similar to what happened in Tripura West, only on a lesser scale. Through the letter the Party has urged the ECI to order re-polls for these 28 polling booths where elections were held on April 18.