Rajat Sharma

Why is Mamata furious over EC’s curb on campaigning in West Bengal?

AKkB (007)Consequent to the clashes that took place in Kolkata on Tuesday during BJP President Amit Shah’s roadshow, the Election Commission took a strong view and, in order to curb further violence in the run-up to the last phase of polling on Sunday, curtailed campaigning by 24 hours. This means that political parties in West Bengal cannot campaign for 72 hours prior to polling.

The Election Commission took this unprecedented step in exercise of its powers under Article 324 of the Constitution. It also ordered the immediate transfer of two of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s closest aides, Rajeev Kumar, ADG, CID and Principal Secretary (Home) Atri Bhattacharya. According to the EC, Rajeev Kumar, as per report of EC observers, was himself arresting people on Tuesday evening. He has been asked to report o the Ministry of Home Affairs by 10 am in Delhi on Thursday.

The Principal Secretary (Home) Atri Bhattacharya was transferred because, according to the EC, he was interfering in the poll process by writing letter to the West Bengal Chief Electoral Officer with directions on how to conduct the polls.

Rajeev Kumar, it may be recalled, is presently under CBI lens in the Saradha chit fund scam. He had used Kolkata Police in February this year to prevent a team of CBI officers who went to question him at his residence. The same night Mamata Banerjee along with her party leaders and Rajeev Kumar sat on a nightlong dharna to protest the CBI action. The matter was resolved after the Supreme Court directed Rajeev Kumar to appear before the CBI in a neutral place like Shillong.

On Wednesday night, we showed in Aaj Ki Baat show, how a furious Mamata Banerjee lashed out at the Election Commission, alleging it has been infiltrated by RSS men, and that the EC decision was illegal and unconstitutional.

Clearly, Mamata Banerjee is furious because (1) she will miss two of her close aides in the last lap of campaigning, and (2) she will not be able to hold a mega rally in Kolkata, which she had planned on Friday, the last day of campaign. Mamata had planned to create a Bengali versus Outsiders issue, but her campaign will now be cut short.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due to address two rallies in Bengal on Thursday. His party had also planned to hold a big rally in Kolkata on Friday, for which permission was pending.

I have seen Mamata Banerjee’s style of politics for the last 35 years. She is a firebrand leader, she can fire up the masses within minutes, and she can hit the opposition where it hurts the most. It was she who led the Singur and other mass movements, that ultimately demolished the hegemon of the Left, which had been ruling West Bengal for 34 years. With the fall of Left Front in Tripura , Mamata Banerjee is now practically fighting for survival as she fears Narendra Modi may shake her political base in Bengal now.

In course of her entire struggle against the Left, Mamata Banerjee never used cuss words, but for the first time I am hearing Mamata describing the PM and the BJP President as “goonda” and BJP leaders as “dacoits from Chambal”. She refuses to accept Modi as Prime Minister. Clearly, she looks worried and her worries are reflected in her intemperate remarks.

The most interesting part in the Bengal election campaign is that the CPI(M) is practically missing from the scene. This was a party that had ruled Bengal for 34 years. Rahul Gandhi-led Congress has been relegated to fourth position, with its influence confined to a few pockets.

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