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J&K terror in Atal Bengal mirror

Calcutta, May 4: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today virtually compared Bengal with Jammu and Kashmir while coming down heavily on the alleged rigging, false voting and misuse of administration by the Left.

Addressing a rally — his only one in Bengal — organised by Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee at Deshapriya Park this evening, Vajpayee said: “A number of political parties (in Bengal) have approached the Election Commission on this score. But we can’t give up our rights to vote. In J&K, voters are becoming targets of terrorists’ bullets. Why are they being prevented from voting' Because the terrorists do not want democracy to prevail there. But the youths are going to vote despite the bullets. If it is possible in J&K, it is possible everywhere,” he said.

Then he went on to mention Bengal in the same breath as Bihar. He said that in Chhapra, free and fair polls were not possible as miscreants looted booths. “I am told that in Bengal, too, voters cannot cast their votes freely. Yeh rokhna chahiye (This should be stopped). In any election there is a winner and a loser. But the administration should not be misused in elections.”

Vajpayee said one of the reasons the CPM could not spread beyond Bengal, Kerala and Tripura was that “they know that in other states they will not be able to resort to malpractice during elections”.

The language would have pleased Mamata who has been voicing these allegations for years, but it was a rare occasion when she received such a resounding endorsement from someone of Vajpayee’s stature.

Vajpayee’s statement came on a day the Election Commission ordered the removal of five officers-in-charge of police stations from their present positions and barred them from conducting election work. Taking today’s action into account, 10 policemen, including three IPS officers, have been shifted by the commission after charges levelled by the Opposition.

The commission’s third such action in the past one month drew a sharp riposte from the Left Front which accused a section of observers deployed in Bengal of “acting like political leaders” and warned them against “crossing their jurisdiction in discharging duties”. In an emergency meeting, the Front decided to ask the commission to “rein in” these observers.

Vajpayee’s attack was not limited to Bengal’s alleged electoral malpractices alone. In an indirect barb at Jyoti Basu, who has frequently called the BJP a “fascist” party, the Prime Minister asked: “But in Bengal who is fascist'”

It was a reference to a complaint made to him today by the chief patron of the Bengal chapter of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Himayat Committee — a body of Muslims — that their rally was stopped about 10 days ago in Calcutta by some people allegedly belonging to the Congress and the CPM. “The BJP is being given the image of Muslim hater. But the Himayat Committee could not hold its meeting here. People there were stopped from speaking out in my favour. Leftists were surely among those who stopped the meeting,” he said.

After the meeting, Mamata urged the packed audience at Deshapriya Park to chant slogans in favour of Vajpayee. “Atalji aagey bado, hum tumhare saath hani,” she shouted.

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