(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 17, 2011
Left Parties Submit Memo to EC
A delegation of Left parties comprising Sitaram Yechury, MP and Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M), A B Bardhan, general secretary of the Communist Party of India, Nilotpal basu, Central Secretariat member of the CPI(M), Abani Roy, MP, secretary RSP and S P Tiwari, Central Committee member of the All India Forward Bloc met the Election Commission on April 13, 2011 and gave memoranda on paid news and manipulation of media, on issues concerning the holding of peaceful elections in Bengal and on photo voter's slip and EPIC card. Below we reproduce the full text of the memoranda.
WE would like to draw your attention to a very disturbing development regarding paid news and the manipulation of media organisations through the instrument of financial ratification to influence news coverage by the said media organisation to further the electoral interest of a particular political party. An all-party meeting convened at the behest of the Election Commission had unanimously agreed that the EC can, indeed, act on instances of ‘paid news’ as it vitiates the process of free and fair elections and undermines a level playing field. It was also decided in the said meeting to classify paid news as an electoral offence and recommend an amendment to the RPA to incorporate this understanding.
While it is quite easy to identify news coverage in the media as biased and favouring a particular party or a candidate, it has been equally recognised that it is extremely difficult to establish the modus operandi of financial gratification.
But recently, a glaring development has brought such an instance to our notice. The Kolkata High Court has stayed the leasing out of two acres of prime urban land on the Kolkata Eastern Metropolitan Bypass. The Trinamul Congress-led KMC decided on February 22, 2011 to lease the said land for an amount of Rs 6.60 crores and Rs 120 as annual lease rental disregarding the opposition and boycott of the opposition Left Front councilors. (A copy of the notice for the meeting and agenda is annexed herewith together with agenda paper of the KMC meeting.)
That this act of the corporation led by TMC can be construed as financial gratification is clearly made out from the fact that the said land is a prime commercial urban land and the price in the area has been going up sharply since mid-1980s. Earlier the Kolkata Municipal Development Authority had sold land for a five star hotel project where 6.2 acre plot was given out for Rs 213 crores in 2005. Similarly, the Left Front led Kolkata Municipal Corporation transferred 6.29 acres of land to EMMAR-GSF Group (Delhi-Dubai) at Rs 33.60 crores per acre amounting to Rs 213 crores, the other bidders were DLF-HILTON Group etc. The KMC in the same year in July 2006 transferred 5.50 acres of land to DLF-HILTON Group at Rs 27.79 crores per acre amounting to Rs 154 crores. The other contestants were ITC Hotels and Raheja Group. The KMC again in August 2006 transferred 5 acres of land to LIC on a long term lease at Rs 55.24 crores per acre amounting to Rs 276.20 crores. When the land price in Bypass area was soaring, the KMC leased out 2 acres of land to Pratidin Trust at Rs. 5.5 lakh per cottah amounting to Rs 6.60 crores for 2 acres of land. This dole at the cost of public exchequer would leave a loss of Rs 100 crores to the public body. (We are also annexing press reports to substantiate this point.)
We are hereby appending a large number of clippings from Pratidin newspaper to substantiate the fact that this newspaper is acting as almost an official mouthpiece of the Trinamul Congress Party. We are confident that any independent study by the EC will also bring out this fact. Apart from this, the media group being headed by a TMC MP in Rajya Sabha and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee being a columnist in the group newspaper has a bearing on its news coverage. The media group is also currently controlling a Bengali TV channel – viz, Channel 10. The channel also has the same policy towards news coverage.
In the light of this, we urge the commission to enquire into the matter by sending notices to the concerned media group, as well as, the concerned political party.
We are also observing that a large number of paid up advertisements are being released by the TMC to both the print and the visual media. We are also observing that a large number of channels and newspapers are having a biased coverage of the elections. In the light of this, there is a need to set-up a media monitoring cell by the EC and scrutinise whether there is a relationship between advertisement revenue earned and the nature of coverage. It is for the EC to draw appropriate conclusions and this initiative will go a long way in ensuring a level playing field in the conduct of the elections for parties – rich and poor and act as a deterrent against the pernicious instrument of `paid news’
WE draw your attention to
critical issues threatening the holding of peaceful free and fair
the elections to the
We would also like to recall that we had earlier appraised the commission of the three most crucial areas which posed a threat to peace. The first, of course, was the TMC-Maoist nexus which was threatening to perpetrate a campaign of violence and terror in the three districts of Jangalmahal and in some of the districts like Birbhum which is adjoining Jharkhand border. We take this opportunity to inform the commission that the Maoists have issued a public statement on April 11, 2011 (Annexure 1) which clearly brings out their preferences. Maoist spokesman in a written statement has forewarned the Left and the Congress asking these parties to desist from carrying out campaign for elections, whereas clearly there is no such stricture for the TMC.
The second area that we
highlighted before the commission was the Darjeeling Hills. The threat to peace and the atmosphere of
coercion and intimidation was springing from the aggressive
actions of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM).
We would like to thank the commission for its initiative which
improvement of the situation in the hills leading to filing of
multiple candidates belonging to different political parties including
GJM. But now, as and how the elections
are coming closer, GJM is back to its old methods of terror and
intimidation. We are appending herewith
a representation to the commission from the Darjeeling district
the CPI(M) (Annexure 2), which has alleged that the GJM chief, Bimal
publicly threatened GNLF chief Subhas Geising that his `visa’ to stay
hills will expire on April 18 after the
elections are over. Gurung happens to be
an accused in a criminal case and is out on bail. It
is clear that his threat not only
constitutes a violation of model code of conduct but also completely
the atmosphere for conducting free and fair elections in the three
And, finally, we had also
the commission about the campaign of terror and violence by the TMC in
It seems that unless there is a major initiative by the EC to rectify the situation, it will be very difficult to conduct free and fair polls in Purba Medinipur district. We had press reports about uncovering of factories for manufacturing arms in Satengabari under Nandigram assembly constituency. There is also apprehension about the use of Maoist armed cadre in Purba Medinipur by the TMC. We had already appraised the commission about the involvement of the Maoist elements in the Nandigram area in the past.
Given this serious situation, we urge the commission to ensure security deployment in such a manner that the continuing criminal activities, terrorisation and intimidation by criminal and miscreants of the TMC is brought to a halt. We urge that not only should there be preparation for protecting the polling stations but also villages where the current phase of intimidation and terrorisation is continuing. We also strongly urge that all elements charged with non-bailable warrants in the district particularly in Nandigram, Khejuri, Bhagwanpur and Kanthi Uttar be arrested under the provisions of the law.
THIS is to draw your attention to the order issued by the commission No 3/4/ID/2011/SDR/(WB) dated April 8, 2011. We are hereby appending representations made to you by Biman Basu, chairman, West Bengal Left Front committee and secretary, CPI(M) West Bengal state committee and Jiban Maitra, secretary, CPI(M) Malda district committee.
The order, in our opinion, in effect completely nullifies the primacy of EPIC as a document of identification of electors for casting their votes. This order negates the need for producing EPIC by the elector even if it had been issued to him/her. Therefore, the elector is eligible to vote on the production of any of the 14 alternative documents, including photo voter’s slip issued by the BLOs.
The level of the BLO, their appointment and their locus standi make them amenable and vulnerable to pressures of political forces at grassroot level. Therefore, to insist that even if EPIC has been issued to an elector, that fact will have no bearing if the elector concerned declares that it is not in his/her possession. In such a situation, the elector will be eligible to cast his/her vote on the strength of any of these other 14 documents authorised by the commission including the photo voters’ slip. Therefore, this will be a complete reversal of the earlier insistence of using EPIC as a prime document for the purpose of elections. And, given the obvious vulnerabilities of the BLO, open to manipulative use.
In such a situation, we urge the Election Commission to reconsider its decision and insist on production of EPIC by electors to whom the document has been issued. Only those who have not been issued the EPIC by the commission can avail the use of the alternative documents. We are also urging the commission to revisit its decision to accord recognition to photo voter’s slip issued by the BLOs which, in our opinion, could be influenced, coerced, manipulated and faked easily.
(The annexures have not been reproduced here – Ed)