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Mamata faces flak over WB poll violence even as she supports anti-BJP alliance in Karnataka

Sulagna Sengupta | Updated on: 16 May 2018, 20:13 IST
(Arya Sharma)

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's troubles have increased with state government employees demanding a high-level inquiry into the death of a poll official Rajkumar Rao, whose body was found at a railway track in the wee hours on Wednesday. Rao was posted at a booth in Itahar at Raigunj in Uttar Dinajpur.

The government employees said that the government should ensure the safety of all officials who are on poll duty.

Rao worked as an English teacher at Rahatpur High Madrashah School at Karandighi at Raigunj. His body was found at a railway track at Itahar and villagers of that area claimed that he was murdered by the cadres of the ruling All India Trinamool Congress as he did not allow them to enter the polling booth.

Manoj Chakraborty , convenor of Trinamool Congress Employees Federation, said “ We demand a high level inquiry into the death of a poll official in Itahar. We have sent a letter to the state election commission and to chief minister’s office demanding adequate security for poll officials”.

Bijay Shankar Sinha, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) backed State Co-ordination Committee, said “We have noticed that employees are afraid to work at the counting centres following the death of the poll official. The large-scale violence during the elections has created resentment among government officials who are demanding a CBI inquiry into the official's death. We have also written a letter to the State Election Commissioner demanding stern action against the accused”.

After the violence on polling day, the West Bengal State Election Commission and the state police have come under criticism by civil society, who claim that democracy has been murdered in Bengal .

Veteran poet Mandakranta Sen said “If there was so much development in the state, why does the ruling Trinamool Congress have to resort to large-scale violence? The lection has become a farce. Police has been remained inactive in a planned manner in various places on the day of polling.”

Senior police officers of state police said that the poll officer whose body was found in the railway track did not die in a political clash, but in an accident and that the investigation is going on.

A senior police officer said “Rao was knocked down by the Radhikapur Express at Raigunj on Monday night when he was returning to his home after his poll duty. The Railway police is also inquiring into the matter.”

Sources in the state election commission said that the State Election Commissioner has instructed the SP to submit a detailed inquiry report into the death of the poll officer.

According to the reports received from the state election commission, repolling was conducted peacefully in 572 booths in around 19 districts. The State Election Commission has also instructed all district magistrates and Superintendents of Police to deploy armed police officials at counting centers and not allow poll officers to carry mobile phones during counting of votes. The SEC has imposed a ban on victory rallies by political parties till counting is over.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed BJP workers and raised concerns about the violence during the poll process in West Bengal. He said that ballot boxes have been found in ponds and said that the violence was an attack on democracy.

Upset at the PM's criticism, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has supposedly refused to attend the convocation of Visva Bharati University on 25 May, where Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina will be present.

This has so far been denied by the University, which says that it hasn't received the itinerary from the Chief Minister's Office.

Meanwhile, Banerjee continued with her efforts at strengthening anti-BJP forces at the national level and called up Janata Dal (Secular) leader HD Kumaraswamy to congratulate him on his party's performance in the Karnataka Assembly elections. She urged him to keep up the pressure on the BJP. Soon after her phone call, Kumaraswamy announced that his party and the Congress will conduct a dharna if they are not given a chance to form the government in the state despite having the numbers on their side.

First published: 16 May 2018, 20:13 IST