Trinamool Congress set to take on poll panel


New Delhi, June 8 : Still rankling against the poll panel over its restrictions during the West Bengal elections, the Trinamool Congress at a parliamentary panel meeting here questioned how the Election Commission ordered transfer of 68 police and civil officials during the state polls.

Deliberating at a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, Trinamool Congress member Sukhendu Shekhar Roy raised issues concerning the functioning of the Election Commission (EC), especially in the context of the recently held assembly polls in West Bengal, party sources said on Wednesday.

Roy, a Trinamool member of the Rajya Sabha, complained against the EC’s discretionary orders like transferring civil and police officials during electioneering and also asked why were the elections in West Bengal held in a multi-phase manner unlike in other states.

Meanwhile, sources in the BJP and the Left parties told that the Trinamool MP is only toeing the line set by party supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has hinted at questioning discretionary powers of the poll panel.

“We do not want to talk about issues raised in a standing committee, but it seems the Trinamool MP is only following the diktat,” a CPI source said.

In what is largely seen as a veiled attack on the Election Commission, which had earned brickbats from Mamata even in the run up to the polls, TMC supremo had on June 1 said the “festival of democracy or election cannot be achieved by imposing curfew”.

In the run up to the polls spread across April and May, the EC had imposed several restrictions and also directed IPS officer Bharati Ghosh, a blue-eyed girl of the Chief Minister, not to visit Cooch Behar and East Medinipur districts where polling was held in the last phase.

In April, the poll panel had removed Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar after complaints were levelled against him.

However, at the Tuesday meeting, Congress member from the Lok Sabha Abu Haseem Khan Chowdhury (Malda Dakshin) protested against certain remarks of Roy and hailed the role played by the EC in conducting the state polls.

The heated debate occurred in the presence of EC officials who were called to attend the Standing Committee meeting.

The 31-member panel of members from both houses of parliament and headed by Congress member E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan is at present examining the subject, “Feasibility of Holding Simultaneous Election to House”.

This meeting is being held after reference from the department of Personnel and Training, sources said.

At the meeting, the TMC member pointed out that while independence of the EC is appreciable even a constitutional body should be made to adhere to the rule of law and good precedence and should be accountable.

Trinamool sources said that the party would raise the bogey of “often-misused discretionary” powers of poll officials and could press for electoral reforms urgently during the monsoon session of parliament expected to be convened from July.

It is worth mentioning that in December 2015, Chief Election Commissioner Naseen Zaidi did not quite favour immediate introduction of state funding of elections without reforms in other areas.

Zaidi had said, the state funding “could even become one more additional tool, one more additional source of funds without reduction of use of illegal money in election campaign”.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the standing committee also reportedly took cognizance of a complaint from PMK leader R. Ramdoss about alleged misuse of money by the AIADMK during the assembly elections in Tamil Nadu.

The Standing Committee has among other members Abhishek Manu Singhvi (Congress), Majeed Memon (Nationalist Congress Party), K.T.S. Tulsi (Nominated), Bhupender Yadav (BJP) and Bhagwant Mann (AAP).

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