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Nirmala Sitharaman Nirmala Sitharaman

Lok Sabha Election 2019: Bitter battle for 'sweet' Bengal

May 16, 2019

For the first time in the history of Indian elections, the Election Commission has decided to end poll campaigning in violence-riddled West Bengal a day before it was scheduled to end. 

The electoral campaigning, which as per the norm, was to end at 5 p.m. on Friday, has been capped at 10 p.m. on Thursday.

 The unprecedented move decision comes a day after the horrific display of arson and vandalism during BJP president Amit Shah's road show at Kolkata's College Street on Tuesday.

 The Election Commission invoked Article 324 of the Constitution after hearing allegations from delegations of both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Trinamool Congress, and reviewing the report on the violence submitted by the state's deputy election commissioner in-charge and special observers.

 The clashes between the BJP and TMC members saw vandalism of a bust of 19th-century Bengali icon Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, a social reformer and polymath, at Vidyasagar College.

 The Commission said, "It is of the considered opinion that some special measures are urgently needed to arrest the prevailing situation in these nine parliamentary constituencies and to create such law and order situation as may be conducive for holding free, fair and peaceful elections."

 The Election Commission, however, did not state why it chose to end the campaigning at 10 p.m. Thursday instead of Wednesday itself.

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi has two electoral rallies lined up in West Bengal on Thursday, in Laxmikantapur at 2.45 p.m. and Dumdum at 4.30 p.m.

 Elections are scheduled in nine constituencies of West Bengal — Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jaynagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata Dakshin and Kolkata Uttar — on Sunday, the last leg of the staggered seven-phase elections.

 In another significant move, the Commission has ordered West Bengal chief secretary to relieve Additional Director General of Police (CID) Rajeev Kumar and dispatch him to Union Home Ministry by 10 a.m. on Thursday. It also relieved state's Principal Secretary (Home) Atri Bhattacharya with immediate effect for interfering in the conduct of ongoing elections.

 Before taking the decision, the Commission heard the petitions from the BJP and TMC representatives, both of whom charged the other with instigating and perpetuating violence on Tuesday, submitting videos and photographs as proof of the other's culpability.

 In the order signed by all the three election commissioners, the EC took cognisance of the report of special observers Ajay Nayak and Vivek Dubey sent on May 15 that conveyed their apprehensions to the Commission about violence during political campaigning, with specific reference to the clashes that erupted on Tuesday during Amit Shah's road show.

 TIME’S UP

 Campaigning tails off at 5 pm today

 At a presser, Deputy Election Commissioner Chandra Bhushan Kumar said such an action has been taken using constitutional powers of the poll panel  

 EC also ordered removal of Principal Secy (Home) Atri Bhattacharya and Addl Director General (CID) Rajiv Kumar from their postings

 EC WARNS

 This is for the first time such a measure has been taken using the EC’s constitutional powers. But this is not going to be the last —Chandra Bhushan Kumar, deputy election commissioner

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