A Trinamool Congress (TMC) delegation met the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Friday to discuss issues related to “free and fair” polling in West Bengal.
The delegation comprised Saugata Roy, Yashwant Sinha, Md Nadimul Haque, Pratima Mondal and Mahua Moitra. They said the meeting was fruitful and the poll watchdog assured them that all their concerns will be taken into consideration.
“The EC had said it will deploy central forces in all polling booths in 23 districts in Bengal that go to polls in eight phases from March 27. They had also said they will not allow the presence of state police within 100 meters of the polling stations and the onus of security will be entirely on the central forces.
“Today, we met EC and told the full bench that voters will get scared due to heavily armed forces. It may be possible that people may not cast their votes in such an unfriendly atmosphere. Also, it may lead to a low voting percentage,” Sinha told mediapersons in New Delhi after the meeting.
He said the delegation requested the commission to sensitise the forces and to work on better communication channels with the local people, who mostly speak and understand Bengali language. “The EC assured us that they will discuss the matter with the Union Home Ministry and will try to resolve our concerns,” Sinha said.
The delegates also discussed the Nandigram incident, in which chief minister Mamata Banerjee received multiple injuries on March 10.
“We told EC that since it has not come to any final conclusion over the Nandigram incident, the new elected government in Bengal will probe the incident with utmost priority,” Sinha said, exuding confidence of the TMC’s election win.
On March 11, EC termed the Nandigram incident “unfortunate” and said the matter “deserves to be inquired into with the promptitude and dispatch”.
TMC parliamentarian Mahua Moitra said the delegation also raised concerns over the functioning of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) and EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines), but “EC convinced us that voting machines are not hackable and programmable”. “It was a fruitful meeting and we are hopeful that EC will consider our concerns to ensure free and fair polls,” she said.
On Thursday, Banerjee asked party workers to at a meeting in Kharagpur to remain alert at polling booths on voting days, claiming that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will try rig EVMs to manipulate votes.