NEW DELHI: The Election Commission on Sunday rejected the allegations made by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee regarding the entry of outsiders and booth-capturing at a polling station at Boyal in Nandigram on April 1 as “factually incorrect.”
The poll body said the allegations are “without any empirical evidence whatsoever and devoid of substance.”
As hordes of Trinamool and BJP supporters faced off on April 1, Mamata camped outside booth no 7 in Boyal, alleging “cheating of votes” by “outsiders.”
In a letter sent to Banerjee on Saturday, EC gave a hard-hitting rejoinder to the allegations made by her in a hand-written note addressed to the EC and district election officer.
EC, in its response to the Nandigram candidate, gave a complete timeline of the smooth progress of polling at Boyal despite complaints received from the TCM polling agent and later the CM, as well as steps taken on the spot by poll authorities to verify and address these.
Based on the note as well as reports from the media and its own officials, the poll panel had sought a report from its special observers in West Bengal, Ajay Nayak and Vivek Dube, which was received at 5.30pm on Friday.
EC, in its findings, pointed out that the media “showed dozens of audio-visual shots of your being in this polling station and literally hurling avalanche of allegations on some officials working in government of West Bengal itself, paramilitary forces and eventually at the Election Commission.”
With “deep regret”, the Election Commission noted that “a media narrative was sought to be weaved hour after hour to misguide the biggest stakeholders which is the voters by a candidate who also happens to be Hon’ble CM of the state.”
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”.
The Commission said it is contemplating whether the April 1 incident merits any action under the relevant sections of the Model Code of Conduct and the Representation of the People Act. It said there is no mention in reports of officials at various levels “of either outsiders or guns and goons capturing the said booth”.
On the allegation over the TMC agent being denied entry to the polling booth, EC wrote that the district administration tried to ensure the presence of the polling agent but that he refused to come despite being assured that he would be escorted by the police and the sector officer of the booth. “The ECI cannot force anyone unwilling to work as a polling agent,” the Commission wrote.
EC also added that in spite of the presence of the candidate at the polling station for a considerable length of time, the polling process was not disrupted. “Barring a few people shouting slogans for and against Ms Mamata Banerjee, there was no report of any violence, nor was there any intimidation of voters,” EC told Banerjee.
Banerjee had on April 1 complained that she was “surprised to see Central forces role along with officers on election duty, that no genuine voters are allowed to enter the booth No 5/7, Boyal area of Boyal Maktab Primary School.”
“Only the outsiders of BJP party along with guns and goons captured the booth in front of police officers,” the CM said while sitting on a wheelchair outside booth 7. “I am as a candidate sitting outside the room in my wheelchair to seek justice for peaceful, free and fair election but nobody from the village are allowing(sic) to enter the voting booth including the election agent,” she alleged.
“I apprehend that with brutal provocation of BJP candidate and outsiders any bad incident may occur,” the CM said, urging the EC to treat it as urgent and lodge an FIR and take urgent action.
Mamata slammed EC for “inaction” despite her party lodging several poll-related complaints and threatened to move the courts over it.
Banerjee is pitted against her former lieutenant Suvendu Adhikari, who has crossed over to the BJP for Nandigram constituency.