The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP targets CPM, spares CM

New Delhi, May 12: The BJP today demanded that state election commissions should be accorded “independent, statutory” status on the lines of the central Election Commission and that local body elections should not be contested on party symbols.

Central BJP leaders echoed the state leadership in calling for the annulling of the panchayat poll to allow fresh nominations to be filed and a “free campaign”.

Party president M. Venkaiah Naidu placed the demands at a news conference here today and described the rural poll in Bengal as the “biggest fraud played on the people of the state”.

He alleged that the state election commission had become “practically totally helpless, ineffective and partisan”. “The time has now come for all political parties to think of an independent, statutory status for these commissions, on lines of the central EC,” he added.

Naidu said the BJP would initiate a debate in the monsoon session of Parliament to ensure that “state election officials and local administrations do not obey the dictations of political masters”. The state poll panels, Naidu said, should be brought under the purview of the central commission.

He announced that the BJP and ally Trinamul Congress would meet shortly to organise a “people’s movement” to protest the election. “The BJP and Trinamul will not take this lying down. We intend planning an agitational programme.”

Serving a chargesheet against the CPM even as he was hesitant about criticising chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Naidu said: “Right from the beginning, the CPM was determined to capture the panchayats by hook or by crook. They did not allow the Opposition to file nominations in more than 20,000 places. But as public opinion became stronger, on the last day, the CPM managed to ensure that 50,000 nominations were filed.

“Why that many were filed on the last day needs to be examined. (The) CPM planned to get dummy nominations filed on the last day so as to prove on record that so many papers were filed and the BJP and Trinamul’s charges were false. Does the election commission have the infrastructure to process and clear so many nominations in a few hours'”

Asked to comment on the chief minister’s role, Naidu said he was “either helpless or part of the whole thing”.

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