Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee back tracked from her path of confrontations with the Election Commission (EC) and agreed to transfer seven top officials in accordance with the directives of the EC. In a hurriedly called press conference at a Durgapur Hotel on Tuesday (8 April) Mamata Banerjee said, she could have “easily approached the Supreme Court for justice” on the issue, but to avoid a Constitutional crisis, her government is complying with the order. She however made her stand clear when she said, all the removed officers would be reinstated to the same posts after the polls.
Mamata Banerjee was in Durgapur from Monday, to attend several public meetings in and around Durgapur, as a part of the poll campaign for Trinamool Congress (TMC) candidates in the forthcoming Lok Sabha poll.
On Monday the Election Commission ordered the removal of four SPs (Malda, Murshidabad, Burdwan and West Midnapore), two ADMs (South 24-Parganas and West Midnapore) and a DM (North 24-Parganas) on charges of biased attitude towards the ruling TMC government and had asked the Chief Secretary (CS) to place them in non-election and non-field positions by Tuesday.
Mamata Banerjee on Monday and even on Tuesday, publically accused the EC of carrying out “a political vendetta” in connivance with the Congress, She also said her government wouldn’t implement the order and dared the EC to order her arrest. She said that she would not transfer any official as long as she is the chief minister and reminded the EC that it has its limitations.
But the EC was in no mood to give up and it mounted pressure by giving an ultimatum to it for complying with its order by Wednesday morning. There were even talks of Election being cancelled in Bengal by the EC if Bengal state government delays in obeying the orders by the EC.
Relentless efforts, all through the day, by chief secretary Sanjoy Mitra and opinion from some legal experts that there was no way Mamata would win a battle with the EC finally made her see reason.
CS Sanjay Mitra yesterday morning wrote to the poll panel urging it to reconsider the order on the plea this might affect the law and order situation in the concerned districts. He also sought a clarification as to why, deviating from the usual practice, the EC this time did not ask for a panel to choose the replacements.
The EC full bench discussed the plea at a meeting this afternoon and a decision rejecting the request was announced to media around 6 pm.
“After giving it a consideration, the Commission rejected West Bengal’s request and asked the CS to implement the removal and transfer order by 10 a.m. tomorrow,” Mr Dhirendra Ojha, director general in the EC said over the phone from Delhi. The fresh directive faxed to the CS cited specific clauses of the Constitution and the Representation of the People Act, clarifying that it was not mandatory to ask for a panel from state government to choose replacements.
On receiving the communiqué, the CS sent a one-line note to Gautam Sanyal, Secretary to the CM that read: “As the request has been turned down by the EC it is best to give clearance to the commission’s proposal”.
A matching order detailing the removal and transfer as ordered by the EC was also kept ready for the CM to approve. Sources said she is likely to approve the order late tonight once she reached her Kolkata residence.
At the Durgapur press conference, without naming Mr Vinod Zutshi, Deputy Election Commissioner in charge of Bengal, she demanded his removal stating that “he is a blacklisted person” enjoying a stay from the Supreme Court in a non-bailable case relating to a 100-acre land scam in Rajasthan. She pointed her finger towards Zutshi when she said: “Deputy Election Commissioner is behind all this”. A seemingly fuming Mamata Banerjee, also questioned as to how can the EC give charge to a person who is accused in so many frauds?
This unprecedented attack on EC by Mamata Banerjee finds no taker apart from his party supporters because it’s not in Bengal that this kind of transfers are taking place for the first time. On April 7 only EC directed the transfer of Chennai Police Commissioner S George, replacing him with JK Tripathy. EC also appointed Santhosh Kumar IPS as SP, Namakkal district in place of SR Senthil Kumar. Even during the former Left Front rule in Bengal, several SP’s and DM’s were transferred at the behest of Mamata Banerjee, who was in the opposition at that time.