EC plays for Modi again

Campaign ends, but only after Modi rallies

The extreme violence during BJP president Amit Shah’s roadshow in Kolkata on Tuesday was the worst bout of poll violence seen in the country in the current campaign season. Bengal has seen much violence ever since campaigning started, and most of it involved the cadres and supporters of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the BJP. The BJP is desperately trying to make inroads in the state and the Trinamool Congress is trying to retain its turf. The state has always been prone to political and electoral violence. Both the TMC and the BJP are responsible for the escalation in the last few days. It is shameful that in the mayhem on Tuesday a statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, one of the important leaders of the Bengal Renaissance, was vandalised. A lot of property of the educational institution named after him was also damaged. 

The Election Commission has invoked special powers under Article 324 to prematurely end the election campaign in the state 24 hours before it was due to end. The decision has become controversial because there are doubts whether the commission has the powers to do that. The question has been raised why the commission did not postpone the election if the situation was so bad. There is also the question why the commission did not stop the campaign on Wednesday evening itself. There is no explanation for that. It is alleged that it allowed campaigning to continue on Wednesday and Thursday also because Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scheduled to address rallies in the state. The TMC, the Congress and the CPM have made this charge. It cannot be dismissed altogether because many of the decisions taken by the Election Commission in the last few days have been seen to have helped the BJP and Modi. Indeed, even in this case, the EC decided to end the campaign at 10 pm on Thursday, as soon as Modi ended his rallies.  

All the past rounds of polling in the state have seen intimidation, strong-arm tactics and violence. The BJP and the TMC have levelled charges against each other. Other parties like the CPM and the Congress have made serious complaints about both the BJP and the TMC. The commission has said that it has not got full cooperation from the district administrations and the police in the conduct of elections, while the state government has charged the commission with bias and partisanship in favour of the BJP. The Congress and the CPM have also blamed the commission for its lapses and acts of commission and omission which contributed to the present situation. Unfortunately, no criticism from political parties or the public has had any positive effect on the functioning of the Election Commission. 

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