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Speech heat on Anubrata and Anisur

Calcutta, March 27: The Birbhum administration has served show-cause notices on Trinamul district chief Anubrata Mondal and CPM leader Anisur Rahaman following a prod by deputy election commissioner Vinod Zutshi to all districts to act on pending complaints.

Both Mondal and Rahman had been under the Election Commission’s scanner for provocative and disparaging speeches. Mondal, a “habitual offender” according to commission sources in Delhi, was today given three days to respond to the notice, failing which legal action could be initiated against him.

Former panchayat minister Rahaman, who was served the notice yesterday, had made disparaging remarks against the chief minister at a CPM rally in Birbhum.

Sources said the chief electoral officer’s office in Calcutta would soon forward to Delhi probe reports of an allegedly inciting speech by Trinamul MP Saugata Roy and a remark on rape by the party’s Ghatal candidate, Dev, for which he has apologised.

In Malda, a case was lodged at the Englishbazar chief judicial magistrate’s court against tourism minister Krishnendu Chowdhury for allegedly making an extortion call demanding Rs 2 crore from a businessman.

Sources said Zutshi, who was in Calcutta on Tuesday to hold review meetings and assess Bengal’s poll preparedness, had found that the administration in the districts and in some cases, the chief electoral officer’s office, were “sitting on” complaints against political leaders.

“Zutshi categorically said this would not be tolerated. He instructed everyone to act promptly,” said an official who attended an administrative meeting chaired by Zutshi.

According to the sources, the Election Commission had been probing a complaint against Birbhum Trinamul chief Mondal for allegedly making a provocative speech last month, during which he likened Opposition parties to “rats” and said they “must be killed”.

Before last year’s panchayat polls, Mondal had been accused of giving a hate speech that preceded the murder of a Trinamul dissident’s father.

The poll panel is yet to take action on his alleged promise of cash rewards to Trinamul committees that would ensure high victory margins for party candidates in Birbhum.

“Mondal could be in trouble, given the commission’s stand. He must somehow prove his innocence in his response to the show-cause notice,” a senior Trinamul leader said.

Mamata Banerjee had in a rally in Durgapur said she would “always stand by Keshto (Mondal’s nickname)”.

IT seizure

The state income tax department today said it had seized Rs 2 crore in unaccounted-for cash and gold bullion worth Rs 9 lakh since setting up a complaint-monitoring cell on March 19 to receive information on such cash and other items that could be used in the general election.