Battleground Bengal: Why Mamata Banerjee’s Warning To Central Forces On Poll Duty Has Sinister Implications And Needs To Be Called Out

Battleground Bengal: Why Mamata Banerjee’s Warning To Central Forces On Poll Duty Has Sinister Implications And Needs To Be Called OutTMC supremo Mamata Banerjee
Snapshot
  • The EC should also assure the CAPF personnel deployed on poll duty in Bengal that they would be provided immunity from any cases and action by Bengal police.

    Otherwise, the purpose of deploying CAPF personnel to ensure free and fair polls in Bengal will be defeated.

Ever since the start of the campaign for the ongoing Assembly polls in Bengal, Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee has been relentlessly targeting the Election Commission (EC) and the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) deployed on poll duty in the state.

Mamata Banerjee has been alleging that the EC and the CAPFs have been acting under the directives of the Narendra Modi government in the Centre and against the Trinamool Congress.

The Trinamool supremo’s anger springs from the EC putting in place measures to foil her party’s alleged attempts to rig the polls.

She is angry with the CAPF for preventing Trinamool functionaries and the party’s hired goons from making a mockery of the democratic exercise as they did during the panchayat polls in 2018.

Mamata Banerjee had asked her supporters to ‘gherao’ central forces and prevent them from doing their duty.

It was this instigation that led to the attack on CISF jawans at Sitalkuchi on April 10 (read this).

Mamata Banerjee went ballistic against the CAPF after the firing by CISF jawans on a riotous mob at Sitalkuchi in North Bengal’s Cooch Behar district on 10 April.

She not only accused the CISF of shooting people in cold blood and without any provocation, but also termed the firing as ‘genocide’.

But what is ominous, and fraught with dangerous consequences that go beyond Bengal’s borders, is Mamata Banerjee’s threat to lodge FIRs against central forces.

This has already started and an FIR has been lodged naming the CISF personnel who were on poll duty as booth number 126 at Sitalkuchi where the attack on the CAPF personnel took place.

In an audio clip (read this) of a call Mamata Banerjee made to her party’s Sitalkuchi candidate Partha Pratim Ray which was released by the BJP on Friday (April 16) evening and which has gone viral, the Trinamool supremo is heard telling Ray that “strong FIRs’ will be lodged against the CAPF personnel and their seniors (the SP and the IG) will have to be “framed”.

The talk about ‘framing’ CAPF officers only reveals a reprehensible mindset.

“By proclaiming that senior officers (of the central force) will be framed, Mamata Banerjee only exposed her vicious self and the scant regard for fairness and rule of law. She exposes herself as a Machiavellian who will go to any extent to achieve her political ends,” said Dayanand Tiwari, a professor of political science at Delhi University.

What is worse is the fact that Banerjee has no qualms against ‘framing’ men and officers in uniform.

This, though, isn’t the first time that she has targeted them. In December 2016, Mamata Banerjee indulged in a ludicrous high drama by alleging that army personnel deployed at toll plazas for a census on traffic movement (a routine exercise carried out all over the country) were out to stage a coup and unseat her from power (read this).

On Saturday (17 April), Banerjee repeated her warning and threat to CAPF forces who have been thwarting attempts by Trinamool goons to rig the polls.

“I appeal to the central forces to work impartially. People will go to court against you if you foment trouble….you will have to keep coming here (to be questioned and appear before courts) if people lodge cases against you,” she said.

“By holding out this dire threat about embroiling CAPF personnel and officers in court cases, which are bound to be false (cases), Mamata Banerjee wants to tell the central forces to stop acting against her party functionaries and goons who try to rig the polls through various nefarious means,” said state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh.

“Mamata Banerjee wants the central forces to act as per her wishes, just like the state police who look the other way when Trinamool cadres break the law and rig the polls. That is why she is saying that if the central forces don’t act as per her wishes, she will have (false) cases lodged against them,” said BJP general secretary Sayantan Basu.

Retired IPS officer Niranjan Patnaik who served in the CRPF and BSF told Swarajya from Cuttack: “No member of a CAPF would want to get embroiled in a case in Bengal. One, the case will most likely be a false one and it will take years to get absolved. It would harm an officer’s or a jawan’s career. And it would mean coming down to Bengal to get interrogated by the state police. The chances of getting arrested by the biased state police is always there. And the person(s) against whom such cases are lodged will have to appear in court frequently, which means coming over from his/their place of posting. Imagine the harassment involved”.

Mamata Banerjee definitely had all this in mind when she issued the warning to CAPF personnel and officers. That is the hidden message in her threat: fall in line and act as per my wishes, or be prepared to face harassment and worse.

Her scant regard for the central forces (and the Indian Army as well), and her warning that they would face her ire if they do not act in the same subservient manner as her state police force, has to be acted upon by the EC.

The EC should not only prohibit lodging of any case against any CAPF personnel in Bengal, but issue a warning to the Bengal police that they will face disciplinary action if they transgress the law and act as handmaidens of Mamata Banerjee.

The EC should also assure the CAPF personnel deployed on poll duty in Bengal that they would be provided immunity from any cases and action by Bengal police.

Otherwise, the purpose of deploying CAPF personnel to ensure free and fair polls in Bengal will be defeated.

The CAPF have been deployed in the state only because the state police is a biased force that is widely known to act as an adjunct of the Trinamool. The CAPF cannot be made to become a sorry copy of the Bengal Police.

Mamata Banerjee needs to be called out, and condemned, for her threat to ‘frame’ CAPF officers. Her conduct has grave implications since it may encourage other capricious chief ministers to behave in a similar manner.

The EC, and even the judiciary, need to intervene suo motu and issue a stern warning to Mamata Banerjee and put her future conduct under close scrutiny.

The Trinamool chief needs to be warned of strong penal action if she tries to undermine the conduct of polls, and the rule of law.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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