Factually incorrect, devoid of substance: Election Commission rubbishes Mamata's allegations of voter intimidation at Nandigram booth
New Delhi/Kolkata/IBNS: Dismissing Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee's allegations of voter intimidation at a polling booth in Nandigram's Boyal, the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Saturday stated that the West Bengal Chief Minister's hand-written complaint was factually incorrect and devoid of substance.
"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 in fact it is 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 Hon'ble CM of the state," ECI wrote to Mamata Banerjee.
"At least this should have been appreciated that the sideshow was fraught with immense potential to have an adverse impact on law and order across West Bengal and may be some other states, and all this was being done when the election process was/is on. There could not have been a greater misdemeanour," the poll body wrote in its letter slamming the role of Banerjee on Apr 1 when polling was underway in 30 assembly seats in the state.
Earlier on Apr 1 afternoon, Mamata Banerjee visited Polling Booth No. 7 at Boyal Maktab Primary School in Nandigram assembly constituency, from where she is taking on her former party member Suvendu Adhikari, and alleged false voting and voter intimidation at the polling station where no TMC polling agent was present.
She also claimed that TMC's polling agent could not join the election process after getting life threats from the BJP.
After she had entered the polling station, a massive showdown took place between the supporters of the TMC and BJP at the area.
Banerjee had been stuck inside the booth for nearly two hours and later police took her out of the primary school after bringing the situation under control.
Besides calling Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar to inform about the situation and submitting a hand-written complaint before the ECI, Mamata had alleged that each and every irregularity in the election happening in the election was instructed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah and she had also threatened to fight the matter legally.
She also engaged in an argument with IPS officer Nagendra Nath Tripathi, who was given the charge of handling law and order in Nandigram during the election, at the polling station.
Meanwhile, besides rejecting Mamata's allegations over polls in Nandigram, the ECI also mentioned a 'timeline' of incidents that had occurred on the particular polling booth on Apr 1:
5:30 am: Mock poll started in the presence of the following polling agents-
1. Ashok Kanti Panda (BJP)
2. Pratyush Kr Pal (CPI-M)
3. Prasanta Barik (for Swapan Paraw Independent)
7:00 am: Poll started in the presence of the above polling agents and continued peacefully.
7:40 am: Sector Officer received a complaint on his mobile and also from Block Control Room regarding a polling agent not being allowed at Polling Station No. 7.
8:04 am: Sector Officer reached PS No. 7 and observed poll process running smoothly in presence of three polling agents. 45 votes were polled at that time. Sector officer called the complainant over mobile, who informed he will come after a while. Sector officer again called the complainant after an hour who said he was unable to come as some persons were threatening him. Sector officer assured him that sector police officials are also there and that he will be safely helped inside the booth, but the said polling agent again refused to come.
9:03 am: Presiding officer was called by the Control Room and he confirmed that no such intimidation had happened in the booth and that the poll was going on peacefully.
9:33 am: IPS Nagendra Tripathi, who had also been drafted for election duty, was asked to go to the booth and verify the veracity of the complaint. He reported that everything is going on peacefully.
10:19 am: On receiving another alert from Block Control Room, Sector Officer again reached PS No. 7. He found the polling process running uninterruptedly with 271 votes polled.
11:06 am: Sector officer further informed that SP, Purba (East) Medinipur who visited the booth with QRT (Quick Response Team) and found poll going on smoothly.
IPS Nagendra Tripathi was again asked to visit the spot upon continuous complaints on the issue. He also reported that polling was going on peacefully.
General Observer IAS Hemen Das and Police Observer IPS Ashutosh Roy visited and also informed that polling was going on peacefully.
DEO IAS Smita Pandey received inputs that Hon'ble CM may mote to booth no. 7. Required security arrangements were made.
1:45 pm: Hon'ble CM Mamata Banerjee reached PS No. 7. Supporters of both BJP and AITC gathered outside the premise of the polling booth and the situation started becoming tense.
2:55 pm: General Observer and Police Observer reached PS No. 7. They saw Hon'ble CM sitting on a wheelchair by now in the veranda of the PS. She alleged her polling agent was not allowed. On verifying with Presiding Officer they were told polling agent of AITC never reported in the PS since the beginning of the process. 642 votes were polled till then. Polling process was smoothly continuing. They reported back to Hon'ble CM that the polling agent never reported before the Presiding Officer and that people gathered will be dispersed following due process of law as prohibitory order already promulgated.
3:35 pm: IPS Nagendra Tripathi very efficiently took Hon'ble CM away from the Polling Station with security coverage. People shouted slogans in favour of Hon'ble CM. Thereafter, immediately other people also left.
Explaining the security arrangements and the feedback from the officials, the Election Commission wrote, "The booth was manned by half section of BSF-437-A/94-BN with QRT No. 16 of the same company was supervising the booth. There is no evidence at all to suggest that the BSF jawans who were deployed at the polling station, indulged in any inappropriate behaviour. Moreover, the complaint that they did not allow the voters to go inside the booth is 'far from truth'."
"CCTV was also installed in the booth, and three polling agents, Ashok Kanti Panda of BJP, Pratysh Kr Pal of CPI-M and Prasant Barik of independent candidate, were present inside the polling station during the entire duration of the polling process. In the reports of officials at various levels there is no mention of either outsiders or guns or goons capturing the said booth," the commission wrote in its stern reply to Mamata Banerjee.
Reacting on the matter, BJP spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya said, "Before the Election Commission did, general people of the state had rejected all the baseless allegations of Mamata Banerjee and they voted against the Trinamool Congress in Nandrigram freely during a peacefully conducted election on Apr 1."
Meanwhile, leaders of the TMC again slammed the ECI over its alleged biased actions against the state's ruling party.
"Election Commission's response to the complaints raised by CM Mamata Banerjee again proves that the poll body is working in a biased way and favouring the national ruling party," TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said.
"Earlier, we had raised our voices multiple times against the biased and unfair actions of the ECI," Ghosh added.