April 18, 2021 1:36:06 am
On the sidelines of the fifth phase of polling in West Bengal, marked by sporadic violence, the Trinamool and BJP on Saturday clashed over an audio tape purportedly featuring Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee talking about taking out rallies with bodies of those killed in firing by security forces during the previous phase.
Both Banerjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the issue in their poll rallies, while the TMC and BJP filed complaints with the Election Commission on the matter.
On Friday, the BJP had released audio clip of a conversation purportedly between Banerjee and the TMC candidate in Sitalkuchi, where the firing happened on April 10, telling him to hold rallies with bodies of the four persons killed. The TMC claimed that the BJP had distorted the contents of the clip to spread lies.
Addressing a public meeting in Asansol on Saturday, Modi said the tape showed Banerjee was playing politics over the Sitalkuchi incident. “You saw what happened in Cooch Behar. Now you must have heard the audio tape. It makes it very clear how, after the painful deaths of five people, Didi is playing politics. A Cooch Behar TMC leader is being advised to take out a rally with dead bodies,” he said.
Modi added, “Didi, o, Didi, to what extent will you go in for vote bank politics? The truth is that Didi thought of political mileage even out of dead bodies. Playing politics over dead bodies is an old habit of hers.”
Banerjee hit back at a public meeting in Galsi, East Burdwan, accusing the BJP of tapping TMC phones with the help of central forces. “They are even eavesdropping on our conversations… I will order a CID probe into the issue. I will not spare anyone involved in such snooping… It is clear the BJP is behind it although they claim they have no role in it,” she said.
In the audio clip released by the BJP, a person identified by the party as Banerjee is heard talking to her party’s Sitalkuchi candidate, Partha Pratim Ray. “Partha, matha thanda kore vote ta koro tarpor er bichar amra korbo. Sob kota CRPF ke arrest korbo. Dead body gulo ekhon rekhe dao. Kaal ke dead body gulo ke niye rally hobe. Poribaar gulo ke bolbe, kiu dead body gulo nebe na (Partha, keep your cool and focus on the polling, we will do justice… We will make sure all CRPF personnel involved are arrested. Keep the dead bodies for now. Tomorrow there will be a rally with the dead bodies. Tell the families not to collect the bodies today).”
Following the incident, the Election Commission had banned entry of parties in Cooch Behar for 72 hours. The bodies were buried by the families on April 11.
Banerjee reportedly goes on to say in the tape, whose authenticity could not be confirmed by The Sunday Express, “You do one thing, file an FIR. Take the help of a lawyer. I will tell you when the family lodges the FIR after the election. Don’t give a statement to police now. File an FIR after consulting a lawyer so that everyone starting from their commander to the SP faces action.”
In Kolkata, a BJP delegation led by Swapan Dasgupta met West Bengal Chief Electoral Officer, Ariz Aftab and urged him to constitute a special investigation team to probe the matter. “Mamata Banerjee is trying to divide people on religious lines. These kind of statements could lead to more tension in the state amid the elections,” Dasgupta said.
The TMC delegation, including Yashwant Sinha, Derek O’Brien and Purnendu Basu, complained to the CEO about the “illegal” recording of the conversation between Banerjee and her party leader and sought an inquiry. Pointing out that the tape had been released a day before polling, the TMC said, “It is clear that this is the result of the BJP’s dirty tricks department.”
The party also asked the EC to determine who was taping Banerjee’s conversations, noting that it was unthinkable that the audio tape of a CM could be released thus. Its letter said, “The BJP has not only illegally recorded and/or caused it to be recorded, but also played it at a press conference out of context. The entire exercise by the BJP is an illegal act and is a direct assault on legal rights, including the Right to Privacy of Mamata Banerjee and Partha Pratim Ray.”
The CEO said they had sent the footage of the tape to the EC for further action.
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