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Bengal violence: ECI cuts short campaign period, removes two officials

 
Exercising its powers under Article 324 of the Constitution for the very first time, the Election Commission of India (ECI) today cut short the campaign period by a day, ahead of the last phase of polling on May 19 in the Lok Sabha elections, in a sharp response to the violence that has marked polling and electioneering in the state.
 
Accordingly, campaigning in these constituencies, which would have in normal circumstances concluded in the evening of May 17, will now end at 10 pm tomorrow.
 
By a separate order, the Commission relieved Mr. Rajeev Kumar, Additional Director General of Police, CID, of his responsibiities and asked him to report to the Ministry of Home Affairs here by 10 am tomorrow.
 
It also relieved Mr. Atri Bhattacharya, Principal Secretary, Home & Hill Affairs, Government of West Bengal, from his current charge immediately for "having interfered in the process of conducting the election by directing CEO, West Bengal vide his D.O. letter dated 13.5.2019". The Chief Secretary, West Bengal, shall look after the charge of Home Secretary, West Bengal, also, the order said.
 
The decisions came a day after the violence that marred the roadshow by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah in Kolkata yesterday during which some miscreants also vandalised the statue of Bengal Renaissance figure Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar.
 
The incident has become a major poll issue in the state, with the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the BJP, making a strong bid to increase its presence in the state, both blaming each other's activists for yesterday's violence.
 
In a six-page order on cutting short the campaign period issued here this evening, the Commission said it was of the considered opinion that some special measures were urgently needed to arrest the prevailing situation in the nine Lok Sabha constituencies where the elections are to be held on May 19.
 
The order said the measures were also needed to create such law and order situation as may be conducive to holding free, fair and peaceful elections in these constituencies.
 
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Accordingly, the ECI directed that "no person shall (a) convene, hold, attend, join or address any public meeting or procession in connection with an election; or (b) display to the public any election matter by means of cinematograph, television or other similar apparatus; or (c) propagate any election matter to the public by holding, or by arranging the holding of, any musical concert or any theatrical performance or any other entertainment or amusement with a view to attracting the members of the public thereto, in connection with these elections; and no spirituous, fermented or intoxicating liquors or other substances of a like nature shall be sold, given or distributed at a hotel, eating house, tavern, shop or any other place, public or private, within polling areas in these nine Parliamentary Constituencies .... from 10 pm on 16.05.2019 and till the conclusion of poll on 19.05.2019."
 
The constituencies in Bengal where polling is slated to be held on May 19 are Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jaynagar (SC), Mathurapur (SC), Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata Dakshin and Kolkata Uttar.
 
The order noted that there had been growing incidents of disruption and violence during campaigning and processions in the state during the elections.
 
It said that the Deputy Election Commissioner in charge of West Bengal had visited the state on May 13 and taken stock of the situation.
 
In his report, he said that, while logistics arrangements were mostly on track, there was "distinct resistance and non-cooperation" from the district administration and district police when it came to providing level playing field to all candidates and an environment free of fear and threats to the voters.
 
The report said the ECI observers had pointed out that the fear psychosis came out during their interactions with the public.
 
"They pointed out that utterances of the AITC senior leaders on the lines of 'Central Forces will leave after the elections while we will remain' sends a chilling message among the officers as well as voters alike," it said.
 
The Observers also informed the ECI about other incidents of violence and the cases registered after the violence of yesterday.
 
The order noted that, during the last 24 hours, representatives of various political parties had met the Commission and expressed their concern on the prevailing conditions of law and order.
 
The ECI said that, on the basis of these reports and inputs, it was concerned about the safety and security of the general electors.
 
NNN

(Our News Desk can be contacted at desk@netindian.in)

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