A day after he hit out at the ruling Trinamool Congress for protesting against his decision to defer the counting of votes for the civil polls, West Bengal state election commissioner Susanta Ranjan Upadhyay resigned Tuesday.
Confirming this, Governor K N Tripathi, who met Upadhyay in the evening, said, “At around 3.45 pm today, the state election commissioner came and tendered his resignation. I have received it and forwarded it to the government.” To a query whether he had asked Upadhyay to continue, Tripathi said, “No.”
Tripathi and Upadhyay have been under attack from the TMC for recommending deployment of central security forces during civic polls, allegedly without the state government’s knowledge. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who was in Delhi when the Governor’s recommendation reached the Union Home Ministry, claimed it was done without the state government’s knowledge.
Later, several TMC leaders, including national spokesperson Derek O’Brien, alleged that a parallel administration was being run from Raj Bhavan and that it had become the “state BJP headquarters”.
Upadhyay was also targeted for his decision to defer the counting of votes. His resignation came after a series of dramatic events since October 3, the day polling took place for the civic bodies of Salt Lake-Rajarhat-Newtown, Asansol and Bally-Howrah as well as different levels of panchayats, amidst incidents of violence.
At Salt Lake-Rajarhat-Newtown and Asansol, mediapersons were threatened and attacked while covering the polls. The Opposition — CPM, BJP and Congress — complained that the polls had been rigged.
On October 4, Upadhyay announced that counting, scheduled for October 7, would be postponed because the State Election Commission (SEC) needed to go through video footage to determine if a re-poll was necessary at some booths.
This infuriated the TMC and its general secretary and education minister Partha Chatterjee, general secretary Subrata Bakshi, state panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee and mayor Sovan Chatterjee, along with councillors, staged a demonstration outside the SEC office.
The leaders met Upadhyay twice Monday. Later, at a press conference, Upadhyay said, “It is unprecedented that a political party did it. No one should try to influence the decision of a constitutional body in his or her favour. I will definitely look into it after the elections.”
Sources at Governor House said the state Home Secretary had met Tripathi Tuesday evening and recommended the name of Transport Secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay as Upadhyay’s replacement. Bandopadhyay, who is on a tour to Bhutan with the CM, is returning to Kolkata to take charge Wednesday.
Upadhyay had succeeded Mira Pande, who had been at loggerheads with the state government during the municipal and panchayat elections of July 2014.