After Governor prod, Bengal poll panel to show-cause presiding officers for “feedback U-turn”

TWO PRESIDING OFFICERS ACCUSED OF CHANGING INITIAL FEEDBACK THAT CONFIRMED BOOTH JAMMING BY HOOLIGANS IN 18 APRIL KMC POLLS

Bengal Governor KN Tripathi. File photo.
Bengal Governor KN Tripathi. File photo.

By bappaditya paul

UNDER FIRE over alleged large-scale irregularities in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) polls held on 18 April, the Bengal State Election Commission (SEC) has decided to serve show-cause notices on two Presiding Officers (PO) for allegedly making a U-turn from their initial feedback vis-à-vis booth jamming by hooligans.

The decision comes a day after the poll panel ruling out any re-poll for KMC and hours after the poll panel chief calling on Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi at Raj Bhavan on Wednesday.

The Governor had summoned him over allegations of malpractices in KMC polls and to know the steps being taken for smooth elections in another 91 civic bodies in Bengal scheduled for 25 April.

“We will be serving show-cause notices on the Presiding Officers of two booths tomorrow,” Mr Upadhaya said late on Wednesday evening. He avoided identifying the two booths from among the total 4,704 where voting took place on 18 April.

“On the election day, we received several calls complaining about booth capturing, false voting, intimidation etc. When we followed them up over the phone, Presiding Officers of two booths told that there was indeed a booth jamming at their booths and some hooligans were disrupting the poll process,” Mr Upadhaya said.

Bengal election commissioner S R Upadhaya. File photo.
Bengal election commissioner S R Upadhaya. File photo.

“But the written report that they submitted later to the Commission, there was no mention about this. Reports of the concerned poll observers and the Municipal Returning Officers only mentioned about some disturbances at the booths and noted that the trouble eventually settled down paving way for smooth polls,” the election commissioner said. “Hence, we want to know from the POs as to what prompted them to change their versions.”

Earlier in the day, Mr Upadhaya called on the Governor at Raj Bhavan and elaborated to him for about 40 minutes the reports that the Commission had received from the DM South 24-Pargans and the Municipal Returning Officers (MRO) as regards the KMC polls. He also briefed the Governor about the steps being taken for smooth conduct of elections in 91 civic bodies in the state on 25 April.

“I shared the reports of the DM and the MROs with him and also told them about the complaints that we had received. The Governor asked me about the firing on a Kolkata Police SI at Girish Park; I told him that I had sought a report on this from Kolkata Police Commissioner but was yet to get it,” Mr Upadhaya said.

The poll commissioner will conduct a video-conference on Thursday with the DMs and SPs of 18 districts where elections to 91 civic bodies are scheduled for 25 April. This is to take stock of the poll preparations and security arrangements for the high-voltage polls.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This is a modified version of a news report that first appeared in The Statesman on 23 April 2015.)

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