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Posted at: May 16, 2019, 7:00 AM; last updated: May 16, 2019, 11:39 AM (IST)

Bengal campaigning cut by a day, CM tears into EC

Poll panel cites violence to invoke powers under Article 324
Bengal campaigning cut by a day, CM tears into EC
Police stand next to burning debris on a street following clashes between BJP and TMC in Kolkata on May 14, 2019. AFP file photo

Tribune News Service
New Delhi/Kolkata, May 15

Invoking extraordinary powers under Article 324 of the Constitution, the Election Commission today advanced the silence period before the final phase of Lok Sabha polling in West Bengal by almost 20 hours. Campaigning for Phase VII would now end at 10 pm tomorrow, instead of 6 pm on Friday.

Senior EC official Chandra Bhushan Ojha said the decision was taken in view of the violence in the state over the past 24 hours. The nine constituencies will go to the polls in the last phase on May 19.

A combative Mamata Banerjee was quick to react, claiming there was no law and order problem and that clamping Article 324 was “unprecedented, unconstitutional and unethical”. The Election Commission, the Chief Minister alleged, “was full of RSS people. I have never seen such an EC”.

The poll panel, she said, should instead have taken action against BJP chief Amit Shah for the violence in Kolkata and that PM Narendra Modi and Shah directed removal of the Home Secretary.

Meanwhile, Ojha said it was “probably the first time that the EC has invoked Article 324 in this manner”. He  went on to add: “But it may not be the last and can again be invoked in cases of repetition of lawlessness and violence that vitiate the conduct of poll in a peaceful manner”.

Article 324 confers power of superintendence, direction and control of elections on the EC. However, detailed procedure for the conduct of poll is laid down in the Representation of People Act. Whenever, the EC wants to take any decision which is not supported by the RP Act, it falls back on Article 324.

The poll panel also issued an order to relieve ADG (CID) Rajiv Kumar and asked him to report to Ministry of Home Affairs tomorrow. The EC added, “The Principal Secretary, Home and Hill Affairs of West Bengal, has been relieved for having interfered in the poll process.”

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