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Buddha good cop to Biman bad cop

Calcutta, May 10: After the run-in between the Election Commission and the CPM, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today went on a damage-control drive.

Within minutes of the close of polling, Bhattacharjee showered praise on the commission for the “peaceful, free and fair election”, seeking to take the edge off its anger over CPM politburo member Biman Bose’s comments on Saturday.

“I compliment the EC (Election Commission), especially its observers, for the peaceful, free and fair conduct of the election…. Our administration and police have co-operated with the EC in holding the election within the framework put in place by it,” Bhattacharjee said.

In stray violence in Murshidabad and East Midnapore, three persons were killed.

The commission had feared that poll observers could become targets of mob fury following Bose’s remarks.

The CPM politburo member had told workers to catch observers by the collar and hand them over to police stations if they concealed their identities and questioned voters.

In keeping with the instructions of the commission, police today filed an FIR against Bose.

Before Bhattacharjee’s news conference, one observer had a taste of mob fury.

Aniruddha Mukherjee, the observer for Nadia, was surrounded by alleged CPM workers outside a booth in Krishnagar, about 110 km from Calcutta. The crowd manhandled the officials accompanying him and vandalised their car when they tried to nab a CPM worker who posed as a polling agent and sat in the booth. Police rescued Mukherjee and his team.

At Mominpur under Jadavpur constituency, special observer Afzal Amanullah faced a hostile crowd. “Please leave. All these cars and officials are scaring the voters and causing tension in this slum area,” he was told.

But Bhattacharjee said: “I have no reports of manhandling or obstruction of any observer in any part of the state.”

His government gave the police the go-ahead to get the case against Bose investigated by the detective department.

Underage voters in queue to press the button outside a booth at Paharpur on the southern fringes of the city.

“I am not going to offer any comment on the Bose issue. All that I can say is that the law will take its own course. We accepted all the EC directives so far and discharged duties in accordance with the EC’s directives. We will continue to do so in the future,” Bhattacharjee said.

Half-an-hour after polling ended, chief electoral officer Basudeb Banerjee lodged a complaint against Bose with Taltola police station in central Calcutta.

Banerjee said: “An FIR has been lodged with the police as per instructions from the chief election commissioner.” He added that chief election commissioner T.S. Krishnamurthy’s office “confirmed to us the exact wording of the complaint”.

The charges against Bose were brought under seven sections of the Indian Penal Code. “Our course of action will depend on further instructions from the commission’s Delhi office,” Banerjee said.

The front chief, who had accused the observers of “crossing limits”, was charged with:

• Provocation with intent to cause riot

• Interfering or attempting to interfere with the exercise of electoral rights

• Obstructing public servants on duty

• Threatening injury to public servants

• Criminal intimidation

• Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace and

• Statements conducive to public mischief.

The police are now bound to start a case against Bose but the charges are bailable.

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