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Tandon hooks Biman beamer... pledges neutral panel...

Calcutta, March 22: The Election Commission boss today called the CPM's allegations against it totally unwarranted and uncalled for.

Such charges, B.B. Tandon added, would not deter the commission from doing its job.

'We are aware of the unwarranted criticism of EC observers. All the observers deputed to Bengal had done a commendable job. Such uncalled for criticism will not deter the commission from discharging its constitutional duties and obligations.'

Yesterday, CPM politburo member Biman Bose had alleged that poll panel observers were acting according to their whims and fancies and entertaining Opposition complaints without checking out their veracity. 'The observers should understand that they simply cannot afford to do anything and everything just because they have been deputed by the EC. They have committed excesses. The poll panel should frame guidelines for its observers,' Bose had remarked.

The chief election commissioner said: 'We are absolutely not happy to note the allegations against our observers.'

The observers, he insisted, were well versed with the rules. Only experienced officers had been sent to Bengal to ensure error-free electoral rolls, Tandon said. 'I assert that observers had worked according to the commission's instructions. Our observers are senior and highly experienced bureaucrats and they have worked in various capacities. They visited the state thrice and did very good work.'

The observers toured the state thrice in three months to weed out bogus voters from the rolls. Thirteen lakh names were deleted in the process and about 20 lakh added.

Bose, who has been assigned by the CPM to look after its election campaign along with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in the absence of state secretary Anil Biswas, had yesterday also cast doubts on the observers' neutrality.

Tandon said officials handling the Bengal polls would work with 'total neutrality'. 'If there is anything otherwise, (the) EC will take strict note of that and initiate action.'

Two poll panel officers flew down from Delhi today to look into the various complaints lodged with the commission by political parties yesterday. Two others will come later.

This year's elections will be overseen by 294 general observers ' one for each constituency. Besides, there will be 67 expenditure observers and each will be in charge of a cluster of Assembly seats.

'I would like to say that in this election, observers will play a very, very important role,' Tandon said.

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