Bengal: Today's Events Show Why EC Would Be Justified In Banning Mamata Banerjee From Campaigning Any More

Bengal: Today's Events Show Why EC Would Be Justified In Banning Mamata Banerjee From Campaigning Any MoreBengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Snapshot
  • Central forces are routinely deployed on poll duty in all other states.

    But no other chief minister has ever accused the central forces of acting in a biased manner, leave aside asking people to confront CAPF personnel and take the law into their own hands.

Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee has to take responsibility for the deaths of four persons in firing by Central forces who were attacked by a huge mob outside a polling booth at Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar district on Saturday morning.

Her exhortation to her supporters and functionaries to take the law into their hands and confront Central forces deployed in Bengal on poll duty emboldened the mob at Sitalkuchi to attack the CISF personnel.

According to Coochbehar police chief, a mob of a few hundred people attacked a combined force of CISF and CRPF personnel, attempted to snatch their rifles and even storm the polling booth (watch this video), thus leading to the provoked firing.

“She knew that a confrontation can easily spin out of control and lead to deaths. That is what she wanted, perhaps in the fond hope that it would generate sympathy and support in the Trinamool’s favour.That was her sinister calculation,” charged a senior state BJP leader.

Since the start of the election campaign last month, Banerjee has been criticising the central forces and charging them with attempting to interfere in the elections on behalf of the BJP.

She had been levelling wild allegations against the central forces without, of course, providing any evidence to back her allegations. At all her rallies, she has been accusing central forces of intimidating voters.

Central forces, Mamata Banerjee has repeatedly said, have been going around asking people to vote for the BJP and warning them of dire consequences if they do not.

Even after the EC notice, Banerjee remained defiant and said she had done no wrong. She wrote to the EC on Saturday (read this report) listing out some unsubstantiated allegations against central forces.

Banerjee wrote to the EC alleging that on April 6, a young girl was allegedly molested by a CRPF jawan. She also wrote to the EC that “there have been serious allegations of CAPF (central armed police forces) resorting to intimidation of voters by exerting force, influencing the electorate to cast their votes for a particular political party etc”.

Once again, Banerjee provided no evidence to back these grave allegations and appeared to be merely relying on hearsay. That does not behove a person who holds the office of the chief minister and has been a Union minister as well.

Banerjee also justified her exhortation to her supporters to confront central forces and told the EC in her defence that she had merely asked her supporters to gherao CAPF personnel.

What was lost on her is that even a gherao of a government official and preventing him from discharging his duties is a violation of Section 353 of the IPC, a non-bailable offence punishable with imprisonment of up to five years.

What Mamata Banerjee also conveniently forgot is that the police force under her has, over the past ten years, frequently resorted to this provision to imprison people protesting against her government’s many acts of omission and commission.

What needs to be pointed out here is that the central forces are routinely deployed on poll duty in all other states. And such allegations have never been levelled against them by any other chief minister or political party.

Many of the states where central forces have been deployed for poll duty are ruled by non-BJP parties, and the poll battles have been high-stakes ones.

But no other chief minister has ever accused the central forces of acting in a biased manner, leave aside asking people to confront CAPF personnel and take the law into their own hands.

The Trinamool chief has also accused the EC of acting at the behest of the BJP government at the Centre and has been trying to undermine its authority. She has attacked the EC multiple times, and her allegations, as usual, have been completely unsubstantiated.

Given all this, it is high time the EC initiates strong action against her immediately. Given her potential for instigating violence (as was evident on Saturday), the EC should impose an immediate ban on Mamata Banerjee from campaigning any further.

A gag order on Mamata Banerjee is also in order and the EC should also order newspapers, TV channels and the social media from carrying any statement or speech by Mamata Banerjee till the elections are over.

This is imperative in order to ensure that the next four phases of polling pass off peacefully and Saturday’s shameful incidents are not repeated anywhere else.

Such a strict action on Mamata Banerjee will also have a sobering effect on other Trinamool leaders who may try to instigate violence and attacks on central forces.

It will also deter Trinamool functionaries from trying to rig the polls, as has been their wont. With their supremo out of action and banned from campaigning, Trinamool functionaries will not be able to muster the courage to rig the polls or indulge in malpractices.

It is thus in the interests of free, fair and violence-free polls in Bengal that the EC bars Mamata Banerjee from campaigning any more. It is in the best interests of all stakeholders that she cools her heels now in the confines of her Kalighat abode.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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