BOLPUR: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday alleged that she has come to know that three special observers of the Election Commission (EC) have “ordered police officers to detain TMC workers” ahead of the voting exercise, and said that she would move the Supreme Court against this “conspiracy”.
The TMC supremo, while addressing party members at an auditorium in Bolpur, Birbhum district, said she had chanced upon WhatsApp conversations of the special observers, and asserted that she “might be show-caused (by the EC), but can’t be silenced”.
Banerjee was earlier asked to furnish reasons for her alleged appeal to Muslims to vote en bloc for her party, and her remarks against central forces.
She was also barred from campaigning for 24 hours.
“Enough is enough. I don’t have any issue if they (EC observers) work for free and fair elections but they have been working only to help the BJP. They want to finish off Trinamool,” the TMC boss stated.
“These officials are giving orders to detain our men the night before polls and keep them in custody till the next day. I have seen their WhatsApp conversations; they were given to me by a reporter.
And it must have originally come from BJP men,” she said, showing the transcript of a purported chat between the special observers and top officials, including district magistrates and police superintendents.
The CM further said that her party will not take such things lying down and move the Supreme Court against this “conspiracy and partisan approach” after the elections.
“Is it your job (EC special observer) to ask the police to detain people?” the CM wondered.
Expressing outrage over the fact that an EC special observer has “named active TMC workers in the chat and branded them as trouble mongers”, Banerjee claimed that the official has also “asked the police to arrest all of them so that they cannot be seen anywhere during the polling exercise”.
“In the chat, the special police observer described TMC activists as ‘goons’ who are not allowing BJP agents to carry out their work.
Can the EC use such epithet against a party?” the TMC supremo said.
Contending that her government had been tolerating such “intimidation and interference since 2016 polls,” she said, “We will move the apex court to discuss ways that can be adopted to ensure that elections are held impartially in the days to come.
” Insisting that she had no issue if state government officials and security forces performed ‘Raj Dharma’, the CM stated that the EC has acted in a “partisan manner” against the TMC and favoured the saffron camp in Naihati, Bijpur, Kanchrapara, Mangalkot, Budbud, Goalpokhor, Uttar Dumdum.
“If someone is illegally detained the night before the polls, his family should go to respective police stations and register protests.
These three retired persons (EC-appointed observers who are retired IAS and IPS officers) won’t be able to influence the elections.
Their partisan conduct will help the BJP win just about seven-eight seats.
“I personally don’t believe the BJP will be able to cross the 70-seat mark,” she claimed.
Banerjee also held the EC responsible for the spike in COVID-19 cases in the state, maintaining that movement of lakhs of people from one district to another for poll-related work was the reason behind it.
“Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) jawans and people who came in from other states for campaigning were not made to undergo RT-PCR tests,” she said.
Taking a jibe at the poll panel, Banerjee also said that the EC banned big rallies in the poll-bound state “only after the central leaders wrapped up their meetings, as they barely drew crowds”.
“You (EC) steadfastly stuck to your plan of holding the elections in eight phases, despite the COVID-19 surge. Is EC a mirror of the BJP, a parrot of the saffron party?” she underscored.
Claiming that the autopsy reports of Cooch Behar firing victims have confirmed that shots were targeted at their torsos, the TMC supremo sought to know “under whose instructions was this done? The CID probe will nail those involved in the case.”
In a dig at PM Narendra Modi over his “Atmanirbhar Bharat” campaign, she said the COVID-19 situation proved the hollowness of the drive “as medicines, vaccine, oxygen, everything went missing”.
Alleging that the PM and the home minister were making plans to capture Bengal when they should have ensured adequate vaccine and oxygen supply, she said, “Both of them should have resigned over this failure.
Did they not know in January that COVID-19 will strike again?” Pointing out that the Centre has asked a PSU in Bengal to supply oxygen cylinders to Uttar Pradesh, “depriving the people of this state”, she said, “We are using industrial oxygen for medical purposes.
We are procuring 5,000 cylinders, and currently have 15,000 more in stock,” she added.
Claiming that the Centre “seems to be bothered only about Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh”, the CM said, “Given the grave situation in those states, I am not saying they should not get these facilities.
But there has to be a balanced rationing system for all affected states.
“Beyond chest-thumping and propaganda, this monumentally incompetent central government is of no use.”
She further said her government, with its own resources, has so far vaccinated one lakh people.
The TMC supremo urged the party’s Birbhum district president, Anubrata Mondal, to move court and seek protection if he is put under EC surveillance “like before”.
She asked party members to be on guard against “intimidation by central forces”.
Banerjee, during the day, offered prayers at the Tarapith Kali temple in the district.
“I prayed for the well being of the people of the state, their prosperity. I prayed that communal forces do not get to rear their heads in Bengal,” she posted on Facebook.