While a central team is expected to visit the state soon, the deputy election commissioner in charge of West Bengal, Sudeep Jain, is currently touring the state. This is his second visit there to take stock of the preparations.
State BJP vice president Pratap Banerjee, who is in charge of the election office set up for the assembly polls, told ET, “Sudip Jain is coming to Kolkata tomorrow (Friday). We will meet him and inform him about our concerns. We have complete faith in the body. The core agenda of the BJP is to ensure justice to the people of Bengal, and it starts with free and fair elections.”
Banerjee said the party unit has prepared a data-backed presentation. “The 2018 civic polls showed how the state government-sponsored violence created havoc in rural and suburban areas. That showed the real face of (chief minister) Mamata Banerjee,” he said. “It is not our data but the EC’s that says apart from 13 people who were killed, there were 625 houses that were destroyed. Even the booths have been identified – 41,000 of them in 20 districts saw some form of violence. The TMC (Trinamool Congress) won 72.95 per cent of the seats because no other party was even allowed to file nominations.”
He said the party unit has asked for more central paramilitary forces and that these forces operate without much involvement of state government officials. “Particularly, we want the deployment of forces to be completely in the hands of the Centre. Apart from that, we want ECI observers to come here not just a few days before elections but at least a month before so that they can understand the demography and local issues better,” he said.
The assistance by state government officials to ECI officials should also be kept minimal, said Banerjee. “We have seen in the past that some local officials tend to mislead the central officers with regard to local realities. We also want the numbers of observers to be made available so that we can tell them what our workers have experienced,” he said.
The party is also demanding that all the IAS and IPS officials who had a role to play in the 2018 panchayat polls be revoked before polls. Banerjee said the party has also asked the ECI to specifically look into a disproportionate increase in the number of voters in the border districts as shown by draft electoral lists in the past four years.
The party’s election management committee is working with district presidents, state office bearers and zonal coordinators to collect feedback from the ground and report them to the party that can be taken up with the central body, he said.
“The worry is while 300 of BJP workers have been killed, the investigation in any of the cases has not moved forward one bit, and the cases are only increasing,” said Banerjee. “Just take the example of the last few days. Not only was our party president JP Nadda’s convoy attacked, we also lost a senior leader of our party unity in Titagarh who was shot dead on October 4. Just 20 days later, a member of the Howrah booth committee, Kinkar Majhi, was killed too. Even MLAs are not safe, so party workers are working amid a lot of fear.”
TMC spokesman Saugata Roy, however, said the BJP was unnecessarily raising the issue of political violence in the state when none of that sort existed.
The TMC had earlier said that most BJP workers had been killed because of personal rivalries caused due to infighting in the party.
“Even the model code of conduct has not been announced. Why is the party trying to create fear among voters?” said Roy.