The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Brownwash in full swing

Siliguri, March 8: The district CPM leadership has accepted it, not as a snub, but as an inevitable outcome of the strict restrictions imposed by the Election Commission this time. The Opposition parties, on the other hand, have construed the development as a significant victory before the polls.

The drive to erase the names of candidates, election slogans and party symbols from the walls was started here today by the district administration. All expenditures involved in carrying out the exercise are being borne by the government.

In other districts of the region, the clean-up drive, on the first day following the order, was sporadic. In Jalpaiguri district, the administration is yet to put into effect the directive while North Dinajpur has already started the exercise.

Raiganj block development officer Sangdem Dukpa said: 'We have whitewashed 34 walls in the town and work is going on in other places in the district.'

Cooch Behar district magistrate Ravi Inder Singh said the police would begin the drive from tomorrow. The district administration in Malda had already started the exercise on Monday.

In Siliguri, common people refused to remain satisfied with the clean-up order only. The colour of the paint selected to cover the graffiti met with objections from residents.

A passer-by on Baghajatin Road stopped and asked the workers: 'Aren't you supposed to whitewash the writings' The brown colour you are using makes it more of an eyesore.' The supervisor at the spot was helpless. He said brown was the only colour that had been given to him.

The police presence ensured that the clean-up drive did not face any resistance. Officials at the election office here said the 'whitewashing would continue till all the walls were cleaned'. They said similar work, though on a smaller scale, was being carried out at various places in the Phansidewa constituency, where the CPM's Chotan Kisku is a candidate.

He and his counterpart in Siliguri, Asok Bhattacharya, along with other party leaders, are putting up a brave face in the wake of this 'setback.'

In fact, the leaders preferred to be silent today, in contrast to yesterday's outburst made before the government's decision came through. Bhattacharya had even said the Election Commission's directive to implement the West Bengal Prevention of Defacement of Property Act 1976 was a 'fascist decision, which kills the democratic process of election campaigning'.

Darjeeling district magistrate Aariz Aftab had last evening instructed the subdivisional officers to initiate the drive. He said the home secretary had called him yesterday and asked him to take the initiative to whitewash the walls.

Election office sources said graffiti on the walls at Bidhan Road, a stretch of Sevoke Road, College Para, Municipal Corporation area and Court More have been removed. Police sources said the entire drive today was quite peaceful.

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