Election Commission’s special observer in West Bengal, Sudhir Kumar Rakesh Monday appeared to be defending the poll panel following criticisms of failure in conducting free and fair polls even as he made promises to be more cautious in conducting elections in the remaining two phases to avoid allegations of rigging and booth capturing.
He nevertheless stuck to his stand that “the polling in the third phase (on April 30) was free and fair”.
Rakesh’s admission, however, seemed to have little effect on the Youth Congress workers who demonstrated outside the office of the Chief Electoral Officer, Sunil Gupta, and even burned an effigy of Rakesh while also demanding his removal.
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“After the third phase, we have lost faith in the special observers and we think he should be removed from the state as he had failed in stopping booth capturing and rigging. We demand there should be repolling in 800-850 booths,” said Soumik Hossain, state president, Youth Congress.
The demand for repolling has been raised by various opposition parties, even though the EC is yet to take a decision in this regard. When reminded that the EC has sought report on many booths, Rakesh said “the CEO Sunil Gupta was working on it”.
He, however, is of the opinion that there should be specific complaints with names of parliamentary and Assembly constituencies before any action could be taken. “Whatever specific complaints we have got, we have taken immediate action.” Asked if the EC had taken suo motu action after watching media reports, he said: “TV reports are only visuals if they do not specify the locations.”
Rakesh also said he would not be going to the Junglemahal area during the polls there.
Meanwhile, a Left Front delegation met Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath on Monday and handed him a deputation demanding a free and fair election in the fourth phase, while also demanding Rakesh’s removal.