New Delhi: In an unprecedented move the Election Commission on Wednesday cut short the West Bengal poll campaign by almost 24 hours before schedule after the violence and desecreation of the statue of Bengali icon Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar during a clash between Trinamul and BJP workers in Kolkata on Tuesday evening.
The EC’s decision to end the campaign early could hurt Trinamul more as it will prevent Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee from holding her planned mega roadshow in Kolkata Friday.
Incidentally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be able to hold two rallies as per schedule in Dum Dum and Joynagar as the campaign ends only at 10 pm.
Mr Modi’s rally at Dum Dum is due to end at 8 pm. Ms Banerjee was expected to hold three rallies on Thursday — two in South 24 Praganas and one in North 24 Paraganas.
Ms Banerjee may now change her programme schedule and advance her mega roadshow in Kolkata by a day. The Trinamul top brass called for an emergency meeting after the EC order.
The EC said it has been brought to the commission’s notice that there were growing incidents of disruption and violence during the “political campaigns/processions in West Bengal during the ongoing general election to the Lok Sabha”.
Saying it was “deeply anguished at the vandalism of the statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar”, the EC “hoped the vandals are tracked down by the state”. The ban includes a clampdown on campaigning through “cinematograph, television, musical concert, theatre or any other form of entertainment to attract the public for elections”. Reacting sharply, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury asked: “If a ban is intended for 72 hours, why is it starting at 10 pm tomorrow? Is it to allow the two rallies of the PM before that?” Mr Yechury noted that earlier “we had made several complaints and written so many letters about violations and the breakdown of law and order with impunity in Bengal, on which there has been no response”.
West Bengal remained in the eye of the storm as the long-drawn seven-phase elections draw to a close.
As polarisation remained the main thrust of the BJP, the alleged vandalising of the Bengali icon by “BJP goons” is set to polarise the state further. The polarisation of West Bengal, as alleged by the Trinamul, was not merely being done on religious but also on regional lines.
The BJP has been playing the card of “majority nationalism” and “regionalism”.
Besides Muslims, which comprise around 20 per cent, Biharis and Marwaris also represent a large chunk of the state’s electorate. These “non-Bengalis” — Biharis and Marwaris — are among the major targets of the BJP....