ALL EYES NOW ON SATURDAY’S POLLS IN 91 BENGAL CIVIC BODIES
By bappaditya paul
THE WEST BENGAL State Election Commission (SEC) on Thursday show-caused two presiding officers (PO) for making alleged U-turn in their reports about booth jamming during the 18 April Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) polls.
This was on a day the campaigning ended for the 25 April elections in 91 more civic bodies in Bengal.
The presiding officers of booth 32 in ward 134 at Garden Reach and booth 26 in ward 65 in Tiljala, have been asked to respond within 48-hours.
On the poll day, they allegedly gave feedback to the Commission over phone that their booths had been jammed by miscreants, but did not mention anything about this in their written reports to the Commission later.
The SEC, simultaneously, has sought an elaborate report from the poll observers for these two booths as they had mentioned in their feedback about “some trouble” without going into the details.
This apart, the Bengal poll panel has sought a separate report from the South 24-Parganas district magistrate, seeking to know why around 1,415 out of the 4,704 POs in Kolkata had stopped sending SMS updates about poll percentage after 2.30 pm on the day of KMC polls.
Going by laid down procedures, POs are required to send SMS updates every two hours until voting had stopped completely. While KMC poll timing was from 7 am to 3 pm, the actual voting continued a few hours more as a good number of voters had reportedly queued up by the 3 pm deadline.
The moves come a day after the state election commissioner Sushanta Ranjan Upadhaya was summoned by Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi over allegations of wide spread irregularities in the KMC elections.
The poll commissioner today held an hour-long videoconference during the day with the DMs and SPs of 18 districts following the Governor’s “advice” to ensure free and fair polls on 25 April. The videoconference was conducted from Nizam Place.
Mr Upadhaya said that he has instructed the DMs and SPs to put in place strict security measures for Saturday’s polls and has specially instructed them to rein in on bike gangs and on outsiders in all through the 91 poll-bound civic bodies.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 24 April 2015.)