West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday issued a virtual threat to the police and accused them of creating pandemonium, saying those who declared prohibitory orders during the ongoing assembly polls and locked local clubs and Trinamool Congress offices will have to suffer.
Addressing election meetings in East Midnapore district, Banerjee said she had never in the past seen “so much atrocities being perpetrated during the polls”.
The Trinamool Congress chief alleged that some “broker police personnel from Delhi” along with a section of local police locked her party offices.
Alleging a nexus among the Congress, the Communist Party of India-Marxist and the Bharatiya Janata Party, Banerjee said “the central police were used to aid the nexus”.
“Some coward police personnel in the state were also used….”
Banerjee, who also holds the home portfolio, alleged that police created pandemonium in various localities and warned that she had records of all those who planned such strategies.
“I never allowed police to create mayhem. But those who have done this, I have record of all the pandemonium.
“If I am alive, I will reply to all this. Those who have planned this, wherever they have done this, enough is enough. It’s fair enough. If anybody tries to take me on, they get demolished,” she said.
Banerjee said that in her locality Kalighat in south Kolkata, an important club which has been there since pre-independence days was put under lock and key.
“Party offices were also locked,” she alleged.
Lashing out at police for imposing prohibitory orders under section 144 throughout districts on polling days, Banerjee said the night-long microphone announcements made it look as if there were clashes in the locality, and curfew has been clamped.
“They were so afraid that they declared (prohibitory orders under) section 144 throughout the district. Those who have done this will have to suffer in the coming days, please remember.”
Banerjee said she would look into the legal provisions.
“I want to see whether the imposition of section 144 which has been done in the Bengal assembly polls this time was done in any previous election in other states.”
The chief minister’s ire stems from the strict measures taken by the central and state police and the administration ahead of the third, fourth and fifth phases of the polls on April 21, 25 and 30, respectively, after receiving a litany of complaints from the opposition parties.
Apart from the prohibitory orders, to prevent illegal assembly, local toughs who could have indulged in electoral malpractices were identified and kept under close watch.
All under-construction buildings, local clubs were searched, crude bombs unearthed and a massive deployment of police and central forces were made on the polling days.
There was presence of a large number of quick response teams and mobile patrol units.
The Election Commission also removed a large number of key administration and police officers who were allegedly close to the ruling party and gave responsibility to other officers.
Banerjee seemed to be particularly upset with new Kolkata Police commissioner Soumen Mitra, whose role in maintaining law and order and ensuring neutrality of police on the two polling days in the city (April 21 and 30) earned praise from the opposition and the civil society.
The opposition parties and the civil society strongly reacted to Banerjee’s comments.
“Didi’s (elder sister, as Banerjee is called) rants stem from her fears of losing the polls as the Election Commission has torpedoed her plans to loot votes,” said state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.
CPI-M state committee member Shamik Lahiri said the Election Commission should initiate suo motu action.
“This is a direct threat to the officers who have worked impartially. Since she is still the chief minister, the EC should take these comments seriously and take suo motu action.”
State BJP leader Jaiprakash Majumdar said Banerjee’s remarks betray her worst fears. “We can hear in them the cry of the vanquished.”
Former Supreme Court judge Justice A.K. Ganguly said Banerjee seemed to be peeved over people coming out and voting in a free and fair manner.
Painter Samir Aich expressed surprise over the chief minister “admonishing and threatening” police for doing a good job. “This is uncalled for. The way police have conducted themselves deserve praise.”