March 28, 2021 4:47:29 am
As people in 30 constituencies of West Bengal voted in the first phase of the Assembly polls, a tape versus tape played out between the ruling Trinamool Congress and main challenger BJP in Kolkata, with each party releasing clips and accusing the other of electoral malpractice and showing signs of defeat even as the first EVM machines are sealed.
The BJP released an audiotape in which Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee purportedly seeks help of former TMC member-turned BJP’s Nandigram leader Pralay Pal, allegedly asking him to back her there.
Senior TMC leader Subrata Mukherjee questioned authenticity of the “ready-made audio tape” and asked whether it was done by BJP in a planned way.
Banerjee is contesting from Nandigram against her one-time aide and now BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari. Pal is seen as being close to Adhikari.
The TMC hit back by sharing an audio clip of a purported conversation between BJP leaders Mukul Roy and Shishir Bajoria in which a person who the TMC alleges is Roy is heard asking another person — purportedly Bajoria — to appeal to the Election Commission to allow workers from outside as booth agents, as the party does not have enough agents in the state.
Calling it a “fake” tape, Roy said, “They (TMC) are making everything up.” The Sunday Express did not independently verify the content of either clip and cannot confirm their authenticity.
In the clip the BJP shared, Mamata Banerjee purportedly told Pralay Pal: “Tumi toh onek young chele ar onek kaaj koro, ami jani shob kichu. Ebare amader ektu sahajjo kore dao na; dekhbe kono osubidhe hobe na (I know you are young and work a lot. Help us a bit this time, you will face no problem).”
When told by Pal that he left because there was no “certificate” in return for work he did in TMC, she purportedly said, indicating the Adhikaris, “Your local leader did not let me go to Nandigram…and Midnapore… They are running a zamindari (there)…. You know it all, brother).”
Pal purportedly told her: “Didi, I have left TMC. Now I cannot betray the party I belong to.” A BJP delegation led by party’s national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya and Bajoria went to the Chief Electoral Officer’s (CEO) office with the audio clip and also played it before the media.
“Mamata Banerjee is losing the election. That is why she is begging for support from our leader,” Bajoria said.
“Only a candidate who has accepted defeat can speak the way Mamata Banerjee has spoken,” Vijayvargiya told journalists, according to a PTI report from Kolkata. Asked whether the tape was authentic, he replied, “I am saying what I am saying with full responsibility (jawabdari).”
TMC’s Mukherjee said, “I can only say that this is a nefarious move by BJP to malign the good intentions of our leader. We feel proud of her attitude to have contacted a former TMC leader who for some reason has joined another party. It is the sign of a good leader to find out what was wrong and, if there is scope, rectify the situation…”
TMC hit back within hours. Releasing an audio clip of conversation purportedly between BJP leaders Roy and Bajoria, party leader Kunal Ghosh said, “It is clear…that Roy is asking Bajoria to tell EC to issue an order to allow workers from outside a constituency to become polling agents. He even admitted that they don’t have enough polling agents in the state and therefore it is important that the EC makes this change…. This shows a nexus between BJP and EC to influence the election.”
Earlier in the day, a delegation of TMC MPs went to the office of West Bengal CEO and asked the poll panel to withdraw the provision of outsider as poll agent in booths.
State CEO Ariz Aftab said, “Earlier the rule was one has to be a voter of the same polling booth or adjoining (area), but rules can always be revised. As per new rules any voter from the same constituency can be a polling agent.”
Sources said the rules were revised seven days ago.
In New Delhi, an Election Commission official said, “Political parties make a lot of suggestions to the Commission, each of which are examined and then either accepted or rejected. The decision to permit candidates to appoint polling agents from the same constituency, instead of the same polling station or adjoining polling station, applies to everyone across parties. So how will this benefit one party? A polling agent is expected to be a confidante of the candidate. If he or she is allowed to appoint one from a seat as opposed to two specific polling stations, how does that disturb the level playing field?”
Bajoria asked, “How come he (Ghosh) got to know about the conversation between two leaders of BJP? They need to learn more about sting operation.”
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