NEW DELHI: The
(EC) has issued a notice to West Bengal chief minister
over her repeated attempts to “berate and vilify” Central para-military forces by “falsely” suggesting that they may intimidate electors to vote for a particular party and even inciting women voters during a speech in Cooch Behar on Wednesday to ‘gherao’ CRPF personnel.
Stating that EC was prima facie convinced that her two statements — one during a TV interview telecast on March 28 and another in a speech on April 7 in Cooch Behar — were in violation of model code of conduct as well as Sections 186, 189 and 504 of Indian Penal Code, 1860, the poll panel’s notice asked Banerjee to explain her stand in having made the statements, by 11 am on April 10.
In a scathing disapproval of her prima facie "completely false, provocative and intemperate statements," EC said her attempts to berate and vilify Central para-military forces during the electoral process "are causing extreme demoralisation" amongst the rank and file of the forces that have made immense contribution to conduct a free, fair and peaceful polls. It also said her comments had the potential to drive a “wedge of distrust” among the state police and the Central forces.
This is the second notice to Banerjee in the last couple of days. On Wednesday it had issued her a notice over her appeal for votes along communal lines, saying that it was in violation of model code as well as Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act.
The latest EC notice says the West Bengal chief minister’s barbs and false accusations are vilifying the very forces “who have been rendering a yeoman service since late 80s, election after election, and have made a commendable contribution especially in ensuring area domination and causing deterrence for anti-social hooligans by their sheer presence, thereby playing a major role in assisting the ECI to conduct free, fair, transparent and accessible elections”.
“It is more than obvious that Ms Mamata Banerjee, Chairperson of AITMC, has been consistent in berating and demoralising the Central para-military forces, who often played a significant role in assisting the concerned state government and governments of union territories in restoration of law and order and/or as and when requisitioned by the state governments etc. in their day to day functioning also. Far more discouraging is the fact that Ms Banerjee has been trying to make an emotional pitch for the women voters to go to the extent of inciting them to attack the personnel of CPFs... It is extremely unfortunate that political battles are thus sought to be fought in this manner instead of being fought in the campaign trail etc,” said the EC.
Making it a point to record its appreciation of the Central forces, EC said they have invariably done commendable job on the duties assigned to them in all sectors, to the extent of laying down their lives, the most recent being the tragic episode of Bijapur, Chhattisgarh. “It also needs to be placed on record that they and many other ministries and departments of the Union government and departments of state governments assist the ECI for the conduct of elections. But the praiseworthy role of central forces in ensuring free, fair, transparent and accessible elections merits a special mention,” it stated.
Adding that Banerjee was perhaps not realising that her statements vilifying the Central forces “can create a wedge of distrust between the state police of West Bengal, who are also doing their own duty with the central forces, instead of complementing each other,” EC said this was bound to have serious consequential damage even after the process of elections is over.
EC in the notice recalled that when it had visited West Bengal on February 21, 2021, a Trinamool delegation had alleged that the BSF personnel were intimidating villagers living in border areas to vote in favour of a particular political party in the then polls. The delegation of AITMC was requested to give empirical evidence, if any, instead of making anecdotal allegations. However they did not give any response to this pointed query of the Commission, said EC.
At the conclusion of the two-day visit, chief election commissioner Sunil Arora, in reply to a question put up at a press conference, said it was unfortunate that “a party made averments about the BSF”.
“I have asked for concrete instances. They (BSF) are one of the finest forces in the country. There is no point in castigating any force, ad nauseam," Arora had said.
Yet, the West Bengal chief minister, in an interview to CNN dated March 28, asked: “Who gave so much power to them that the central police are threatening the women without allowing them to cast their votes? I saw the same thing in 2019. I saw the same thing in 2016...I know under whose instruction they beat up and how they beat up...if anyone of our mothers and sisters is denied entry in the voting compartment all of you come out and revolt,” she had said.
Also, as per the transcript of her speech on Wednesday at Cooch Behar received from the state chief electoral officer, she made further “highly objectionable remarks” about CRPF. “They will bring goons from Assam to create panic....if CAPF create disturbances, I tell you ladies, a group of you go and restrain (gherao) them while another group will go to cast their votes,” she had stated.