People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 09, 2006
Parties Take Up Issues With The
A Left parties delegation comprising of Prakash Karat, general secretary of
the CPI(M), D Raja, secretary, CPI, Abani Roy, secretary, RSP and Nilotpal Basu,
member of the central secretariat of the CPI(M) met the Election Commission on
April 3, 2006 and submitted a memorandum regarding issues pertaining to the
assembly elections in West Bengal. Along with the memorandum, detailed annexures
relating to various aspects were also submitted.
the full text of the memorandum was released to the press at a briefing which
was addressed by Prakash Karat.
we reproduce the full text of the memorandum.
would like to draw your attention to certain issues pertaining to the
forthcoming assembly elections in five states.
Some of the issues we intend to raise have implications which go beyond
the current series of assembly elections and hold good for the election process
in general and are relevant to the whole of the country.
Election Commission has been making efforts to ensure that poll expenses are
kept within the limits and use of money power discouraged. In the light of this,
the ban on wall writings, putting up posters and banners in any public or
private place in the whole state of West Bengal is uncalled for. This has been
done by extending the jurisdiction of a local law (West Bengal Prevention of
Defacement of Property Act, 1976), applicable to the city of Kolkata, to the
whole state of West Bengal. However, similar approach was not taken in the case
of Tamilnadu (PTI dispatch of CEC's press conference appended).
fact, this has led to the denial of a cheap mode of campaign for the political
parties. In place of
this, no other cost-effective method of propagating the election symbol, the
names of the candidates and other relevant content has been put forward. You
will agree that that people's participation in the election process is the
essential core of our democratic system.
The political parties play a crucial role in ensuring people's
Unless political parties are provided with the wherewithal to approach
the people, the very essence of this democratic exercise gets undermined.
We would also like to point out that the first phase of the elections in
West Bengal is scheduled to be held on April 17 and because of the stricture on
the use of microphones for public meetings till April 13th 5 p m, the
opportunities for reaching the people in large numbers is severely constrained.
We hope you will consider this vital question because this issue has
wider ramification for the future of the electoral process in the country.
the question of the revision of electoral rolls, much clamour has accompanied
the exercise of revising the electoral rolls for the West Bengal assembly polls,
has been rightly stated by the Commission, at different points of time, that
revision of electoral rolls is a continuous affair.
Therefore, we place before you for your consideration that revision of
electoral rolls should be carried out every year intensively through persons now
termed as 'local officers' in West Bengal for a month and the revised updated
rolls should be published every year.
This should not be a problem, given the fact that the Commission has
already taken initiative to establish the electoral authorities for each state
as a separate entity.
This, in our opinion, should be an extremely welcome step to make the
electoral rolls flawless and contribute towards the holding of a free and fair
polls, as a flawless electoral rolls is one of the major foundations for a free
and fair poll.
third major point that we would like to emphasise is the need for smooth
coordination between the Election Commission as an independent constitutional
body and the state government for the holding of elections.
As you are aware, the Constitution empowers the elected state governments
to be responsible for the law and order of a state at all times, including, at
the time of elections.
While there can be no question
about the pre-eminence of the Election Commission in ensuring that the law and
order machinery is not misused for influencing elections, a perfect coordination
and liaison with state administration is of equal importance. In the
wake of the impending assembly elections, it has become important to ensure such
a coordination, particularly in the state of West Bengal.
We have been given to understand that the Commission has decided that the
entire security arrangement within the polling premises will be under the charge
of the electoral authorities and the state administration will only be informed
about decisions taken by the electoral authorities.
Given the fact that a large number of security forces from outside the
state will be exclusively responsible for maintenance of law and order within
the poll premises, communication (given the language barrier) may become a major
we urge you to ensure specific guidelines where the state police administration
can play a coordinating role in overcoming any untoward incidents.
The fourth issue arises out of the guidelines for the functioning of the observers. The Commission has opined under Section 20B sub-section (2) that "the observer nominated under sub-section (1) shall have the power to direct the Returning Officer for the constituency or for any of the constituencies for which he has been nominated, to stop the counting of the votes at any time before the declaration of the result or not to declare the result if in the opinion of the Observer, booth capturing has taken place at a large number of polling stations or at places fixed for the poll or counting of votes or any ballot papers used at a polling station or at a place fixed for the poll are unlawfully taken out of the custody of the Returning Officer or are accidentally or intentionally destroyed or lost or are damaged or tampered with to such an extent that the results of the poll at that polling station or place cannot be ascertained."
our opinion the basis for ascertaining 'booth capturing has taken at a large
number of polling stations' is not clear, transparent and self-explanatory.
This could often be open to subjective interpretation.
In our view the physical act of booth capturing is a major incident which
can be ascertained and recognised as such with the otherwise available provision
and arrangements that are available with the Commission on the polling day
it is necessary to either do away with this provision altogether or describe the
basis under which the Observer can exercise this option with a more transparent
and objective basis so that the apprehensions of subjective interpretation may
be put to rest.
would also like to bring to the attention of the Commission certain developments
which are not consistent with the overall guidelines of the
Commission in the run up to the West Bengal assembly elections.
Attempts have been made by the All India Trinamul Congress and other
opposition parties to delete thousands of genuine voters' names from the
electoral rolls on the basis of wrong information.
Unfortunately, there are instances where such attempts have succeeded.
We are appending herewith a representation sent to you earlier dated
February 10, 2006 on behalf of CPI(M), West Bengal state committee to this
also bring to your notice that the Observer, R N Dash, in-charge of Burdwan
district moved around in the district to oversee the law and order situation
accompanied by a former MLA belonging to Indian National Congress and a present
MLA belonging to All India Trinamul Congress.
The said action of the Observer, can under no circumstances, be unbiased.
You were informed of this development through a letter dated March 9,
2006 by the West Bengal state committee of the Communist Party of India
has not been stated by the Commission as yet as to what action has been
initiated by the Commission against the said Observer for his blatant partisan
activity (letter and video CD annexed).
the Observer in charge of Medinipur East district, Deepak Prasad had ordered
stoppage of all development work under Panchayati Raj institutions.
These works had been taking place under work orders issued much before
the elections were announced and the Model Code of Conduct had come into
operation. This is clearly violative of the directions of the honourable
are also being removed from Trade Union offices which is once again violative of
your directions. Prasad also summoned one Ashis Pramanick on March 5, 2006 at
10.30 p m and asked him to wipe out all graffiti or otherwise face legal
CPI(M) West Bengal state committee had already written to you on March 9, 2006
However, we have not been informed about the action initiated against
AITC, INC and BJP have been making allegations about large number of voters
terming them as Bangladeshis.
We are firmly not for allowing voting right to those who are not
legitimate Indian citizens.
However, a number of instances have come to our notice where, on the
basis of unverified reports, names of genuine voters have been struck off.
The CPI(M) West Bengal state committee has already written to you on
March 15, 2006 to this effect (letter enclosed).
This needs to be cross-checked and removal of names of genuine voters be
serious and unacceptable development has taken place on the question of attempts
by the AITC to get the names of Members of Parliament and former members being
struck off on the basis of false allegations. Alakesh Das, Lok Sabha member from
Nabdwip was sought to be dubbed as a Bangladeshi, in spite of the fact, that he
was elected in 2003.
Similarly, the name of former Lok Sabha member, from Contai, Sudhir Giri
was struck off.
And the present Lok Sabha member from Contai, Prasanta Pradhan was served
with a show-cause notice.
Giri and Shri Pradhan belong to Medinipur East district where Deepak Prasad was
the Observer. The
West Bengal state committee of the CPI(M) has already handed over to you a
memorandum dated March 21, 2006 in this regard.
These are violations which need to be immediately rectified and the steps
initiated be urgently communicated to us.
the same memorandum, attention has been drawn to the fact that the Commission
has stated that names will be deleted even after the publication of the final
rolls on March 22.
We are not clear as to whether the voters whose names will be deleted
will, at all, have the opportunity of being heard and if any genuine voter is
disenfranchised how it will be remedied.
This point also has been mentioned in the March 21 memorandum.
there is a controversial attempt by some NGOs with questionable bona fides to
involve themselves in the electoral process.
The CPI(M) West Bengal state committee has already informed this to the
Commission on March 23, 2006 and the Chief Electoral Officer on March 25, 2006
This attempt is completely violative of the procedure of holding free and
fair polls. This
needs to be checked urgently.
place all these facts before you for your urgent intervention and redressal.
However, we are constrained to point that there is an avoidable delay in
the response of the Commission in responding to most of these questions. The
Commission was informed some time back about these matters and such delays
should be avoided as the election process is on.
(Emphasis added - Ed)