Memo to ECI -- Bengal Elections
A two member delegation of the CPI(M) consisting of General Secretary
Sitaram Yechury and Central Secretariat Member Nilotpal Basu met the Chief
Election Commissioner today to draw attention of the Commission to some
serious concerns with regard to the forthcoming elections to the West Bengal
The full text of the memorandum submitted to the Commission is being
March 2, 2016
The Chief Election Commissioner
Election Commission of India
At the outset, let us state in categorical terms our confidence in the
institution of Election Commission of India and its unabridged right over
the holding of elections to the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas of the country.
This is enshrined in the Constitution as a key element to ensure free and
fair polls where every citizen, every valid voter can cast his/her vote
without fear or favour.
Despite the fact, that the Left Front Committee in West Bengal has made
several communications in writing to the ECI, we, of the CPI(M), feel that
it is incumbent on us to draw your attention to some serious concerns which
could undermine and adversely affect such unfettered right of the voter
which is a bedrock of our parliamentary democracy.
Firstly, we are extremely disturbed over the reported statement of Shri
Partha Chatterjee, the HRD Minister of the West Bengal government and the
Chief Spokesman of the TMC questioning the jurisdiction of the ECI over
matters pertaining to law and order (Annexure 1). It is his contention that
law and order belongs to the purview of the state government during the
election process. This, together with the reported representation of the
TMC claiming that 'surfeit of central forces' will adversely affect free and
fair poll accentuates our concern. In fact, grave apprehensions about the
holding of free and fair polls remain with, not just the opposition
political parties but among wide sections of the people and the media.
Therefore, we highlight this question as a major challenge for free and fair
polls in West Bengal.
Secondly, we recall the experience of the elections held in West Bengal
since the TMC has assumed office after the 2011 Assembly elections,
including the Lok Sabha elections of 2014. The terrible experience of the
Panchayat and the recently held Municipal elections also needs to be noted.
It will be pertinent to share that during the Panchayat election,
Election Commission, which does not enjoy the wide constitutional powers as
the ECI does, had to move the courts to ensure deployment of central forces
for ensuring the free and fair polls. And, each time, the SEC got a
favourable verdict, it was invariably challenged by the State Government.
Ultimately the decision was settled by the apex court. But despite that,
there was widespread violence and booth capturing and falsification of the
results even at the stage of counting. This is not to exclude the fact,
that large number of potential candidates of the opposition was forcibly
disallowed to file nominations, withdraw and campaign. In this context, it
is necessary to point out that, key to holding free and fair polls in West
Bengal would be to provide the voters a violence and fear-free environment
by providing security not just inside the polling booth but also in the
neighbourhood where they reside and the entire stretch between their
residence and the polling stations. You are more conversant than us that in
technical parlance of this `zonal domination' by a non-partisan security
force is crucial. There is a definite atmosphere of fear among the
citizens; not just the political opposition but a wide cross section of
society; even institutions like judiciary have also come under attack. And,
this is accentuated by the partisan role of the administration, particularly
police who proceed selectively depending on the involvement of the ruling
Thirdly, in recent times, there is a spate of violence with escalating
violent internal feuds within the ruling party and which has a chilling
effect on the general law and order situation. Even police officials have
been, at times, at the receiving end of such activities. Not only is there
no action to stop them, but there are instances where cases against
perpetrators belonging to the ruling party have been sought to be withdrawn
by the public prosecutor. What is further disturbing is the repeated
discovery of huge cache of arms and explosives, including factories for
illegally manufacturing fire arms and bombs. Apart from these, there are a
large number of cases falsely framed to pick up opposition activists while
allowing the perpetrators of violence to roam free. We strongly believe
that there is a strong case for measures to rectify this situation which
puts the opposition in a largely handicapped situation.
Fourthly, what is most shocking is the shuffling of officers clearly from a
partisan point of view to influence the electoral outcome in complete
violation of procedures laid down by the ECI in the past. Two instances
will suffice to buttress this point.
At the time of 16th Parliament Election, Chief Minister of West Bengal
publicly announced that number of tainted officers would be redeployed in
the same position from where they were shifted by Election Commission of
India. All opposition parties had lodged serious complaints in regard to
special relation that Smt. Bharati Ghosh, SP of West Midnapur district was
maintaining with AITC. Recently she has apparently invited AITC leaders to
attend a District Police function at Belpahari in West Midnapur. Smt. Ghosh
was one such officer debarred from election duty by the Election Commission
in the 16th Parliament Election. West Bengal Government is rewarding her
with a posting as Officer on Special Duty to deal with Left Wing Extremism.
She will operate from State Secretariat, Nabanna. This is an indirect way
of keeping Smt. Bharati Ghosh in track with the election activities of
Junglemahal comprising three districts namely West Midnapur, Bankura and
Purulia bypassing the EC directive of Compulsory rotation of Police Officers
serving in the same position for three years or more before election.
A hurried transfer order has been issued by Government of West Bengal on 22
February, transferring Smt. Nandini Chakraborty, a senior IAS officer from
the post of Commissioner, Presidency Division to the post of Secretary of
Bio-Technology Department. Smt. Chakraborty has been transferred for five
times in the last four years.
It is reported in the media that Smt. Chakraborty is implementing the
directives of ECI in seven very sensitive districts under Presidency
Division. Her way of functioning is apparently not acceptable to ruling
AITC. As a result she has been transferred. AITC believes in subservient
administration for their own narrow political objective. The hasty transfer
order is issued prior to the announcement of Election Schedule by ECI for
ensuring posting of an officer of their choice in this sensitive position.
Shri Ajit Ranjan Barman, IAS, Secretary of Tourism Department has since been
assigned to look after Smt. Chakraborty's work temporarily as dual
responsibility. This was done while the rectification drive was going on.
Fifthly, we would like to draw your attention to the huge financial scam
involving Ponzi schemes and which is now being investigated by the CBI at
the behest of the Supreme Court. Several important leaders of the TMC,
including ministers and members of Parliament, are in custody in connection
with these cases. Therefore, there is a real fear of huge sums of
ill-gotten funds coming into play to influence the election outcome. In the
past, the ECI has been seriously seized with the use of flush funds; but the
context of the West Bengal Assembly elections warrants a far more focused
attention towards addressing this question.
Sixthly, West Bengal has borders with many states, as well as international
borders. Therefore, the ensuring of security for the polls needs to be
addressed interstate and cross border movements.
Finally, the Left Front Committee, West Bengal is providing a district wise
list of sensitive booths (Annexure 2). But we would like to specifically
flag one region, in the tri-junction of Birbhum, Bardhaman and Murshidabad
districts. Nanur-Bolpur blocks of Birbhum district constitute a hub of
widespread violence and have come to steal media headlines frequently in
recent times. Special measures need to be initiated to neutralize such acts
of frequent violence in this region.
Anticipating your kind and careful consideration.
1) Reported statement of Shri Partha Chatterjee, HRD Minister of West
2) List of sensitive booths provided by Left Front Committee, West Bengal