Free and fair elections a distant reality in West Bengal, says Trinamool memorandum to EC

New Delhi, March 19 (IANS) A delegation of Trinamool Congress leaders on Friday met the Election Commission and said that the “partisan and biased approach” of the poll panel has made “free, fair and transparent elections” in West Bengal a distant reality.
A six-member delegation met the Commission here to raise incidents of violence, including Thursday’s clashes in Nandigram.
The Trinamool Congress panel included Lok Sabha MP Saugata Roy, Mahua Moitra and newly inducted former Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha.
In its memorandum to the poll panel, the Trinamool Congress said, “It is becoming increasingly clear that free, fair and transparent elections in the state of West Bengal is becoming a distant reality. This is evident from the partisan and biased approach taken by the Election Commission in respect of the ongoing elections in the state.”
The party said that on the first count, it has been reported in media that the EC has decided to not permit presence of state police within 100 meters of polling stations and only deploy Central Forces in such areas.
“If true, this decision is unprecedented and casts severe aspersions on the reputation of the police administration of the police administration in West Bengal,” the memorandum said.
It further stated that this needs to be substantiated at the appropriate level. Pertinently, this decision of the EC is only qua the State of West Bengal and not the other four poll bound states, it said.
The Trinamool Congress memorandum also said that the deployment of the central forces by the EC is to augment authorities of the state government that are under “constitutional obligation” to deal with law and order, “not deliberatly demoralise the state state police personnel”, that have worked under different governments.
It further said that propriety demands that there should be proper coordination between the state and central forces to ensure free and fair elexctions and that combined groups of both State and Central Police forces be deployed within 100 meters of the polling booths.
The Trinamool Congress said, “Secondly, despite several requests made by us in this regard, video your earlier letters, you have summarily dismissed the demand for tallying of all VVPAT machines, allegedly on account of the decision of the Supreme Court passed in 2019.
“Clearly, our detailed submissions in this regard have not been factored in. Nor have our concerns been addressed,” it said.
The Trinamool Congress further said, “It may be noted that the very purpose of installing VVPAT machines at considerable costs has deliberately been made reduntant and ineffective. We may remind you, that not only was the said judgement primarirly meant for the 2019 general elections, but that the law insists that every time EVMs are used, there must be sui generis consideration of facts, circumstances and necessities. This matter is not automatic as is being made out to be.”
It also said that only a 100 per cent tallying of VVPAT and EVMs could assure voters that his or her vote has indeed been recorded.
The Trinamool Congress urged the Election Commission to withdraw both of its decisions.
The memorandum was signed by Trinamool Congress leaders Derek O’Brien, Roy, Sinha, Moitra, Pratima Mondal and Nadimul Haque.
Polling to the 294-member West Bengal Assembly will be held in eight phases — on March 27, April 1, April 6, April 10, April 17, April 22, April 26 and April 29. The results will be declared on May 2.

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