West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s conduct at a polling booth in Nandigram last week is under scanner, the Election Commission has indicated, dismissing her allegations of disruption of polling at the booth.
Calling Ms Banerjee’s handwritten complaint “factually incorrect” and “devoid of substance”, the Commission said it is contemplating action under the relevant sections of the Model Code of Conduct and the Representation of the People Act.
Ms Banerjee has been in a collision course with the Commission since it ordered an unprecedented, marathon eight-phase election in Bengal and replaced the state police chief. She has accused it of partisanship under orders of Union Home Minister Amit Shah – an accusation the Commission has vehemently denied.
Matters came to a head last week during the election at Nandigram, the epicentre of the battle for Bengal where the Chief Minister is taking of Suvendu Adhikari – her former protege; who is now in the BJP camp.
During polling, the Chief Minister — who enjoys Z-plus security — was caught up in a tense confrontation between the BJP and Trinamool supporters and had to stay cooped up inside a room for around two hours. She was later rescued by the security forces.
Ms Banerjee had accused the Election Commission of failing to maintain law and order during elections.
Today, the Commission said Ms Banerjee’s action at the polling booth was fraught with “immense potential to have adverse effect on the law and order across West Bengal and maybe in some other states”.
“It is a matter of deep regret that a media narrative w sought to be weaved hour after hour to misguide the biggest stakeholders which is the voters by a candidate who also happens to be the honourable CM… All this was done when the election process was/is on. There could not have been a greater misdemeanour,” read the Commission’s response.
“It is being separately examined whether happenings of 1.4.2021 merit any action under sections 131 and 123(2) of RP Act and/or under Model Code of Conduct,” the Commission added before signing off.
Section 131 in the Representation of the People Act calls for penalty for disorderly conduct in or near polling stations with a three-month jail term and/or a fine.
On Thursday, accusing the election body of taking orders from Union home minister Amit Shah, Mamata Banerjee said it had ignored the 63 complaints her party had filed since morning.
“We will move the court over it. This is unacceptable,” she had said, sitting in her wheelchair outside the polling booth 7 in Boyal.
In its letter, the Commission said it has received seven complaints from Trinamool Congress. It also rejected Ms Banerjee’s contention that the party’s polling agent was not allowed to enter the polling booth by the BJP supporters or “outsiders, guns and goons”.
“Barring a few people shouting slogans for and against Ms Banerjee, there was no report of any violence, nor was there any intimation of voters,” the Commission wrote.
There has been no response yet from Ms Banerjee or her party.