March 31: Mamata Banerjee has said her hoardings can be pulled down but she cannot be removed from people’s hearts — a statement that coincided with the controversy over the alleged assault of an official for removing such poll paraphernalia from public places.
“They can pull down Mamata Banerjee’s hoardings. They cannot remove Mamata Banerjee from people’s hearts…,” the chief minister told a rally in Garbeta, West Midnapore.
The statement was later tweeted from the All India Trinamul Congress’s Twitter handle.
The chief minister made no reference to the controversy in North 24-Parganas, where Trinamul MLA Dhiman Roy allegedly abused and assaulted Dinabandhu Gayen, the Habra II block development officer, for removing Trinamul posters and banners from a PWD road.
“In different parts of Bengal my cutouts, posters, banners are being removed.… This is not happening in Maharashtra, Rajasthan or Punjab,” Mamata said before iterating that she cannot be removed from the hearts of the people.
She may have reservations about what government officials have been doing in different parts of the state while adhering to provisions of the model code of conduct, but the guidelines don’t have any ambiguity, said commission officials.
Gayen, the BDO, today came under attack from the ruling political establishment, which lodged a complaint against him.
“It appears that the BDO did all this under the patronage of a rival political party. We have requested the Election Commission to remove him from the poll process,” said Jyotipriya Mullick, the food and supplies minister.
Trinamul all-India general secretary Mukul Roy accused the BDO of maligning the image of MLA Dhiman Roy and lodged a complaint against Gayen with the commission. The Trinamul wing of North 24-Parganas sent another complaint with “photographic evidence” of the BDO’s “political bias”, demanding his immediate removal from work related to the elections.
Sources said the district administration also appeared to be tightening the screws on the BDO after promising all action to punish those who allegedly assaulted him.
“I have asked him (Gayen) to submit a report within 24 hours. The report will also cover the incident that occurred when an MCC team was removing banners and posters and the subsequent incident at the BDO’s office,” North 24-Parganas district magistrate Sanjay Bansal said today.
According to a complaint dated March 25 and 26 that Gayen had forwarded to the police and Bansal, MLA Roy and his supporters allegedly abused and assaulted him in his office.
However, a revised complaint filed by Gayen on March 26 neither mentions MLA Roy by name, unlike in the first complaint, nor does it say he was present in the BDO’s chamber.
Asked what could have prompted the official to draw up two different complaints, DM Bansal said: “The BDO has been asked to explain that as well in his report.”
A section of administrative and police officers felt that an all-too-familiar damage-control bid was under way.
“It is an open secret that the BDO had to change his first complaint under duress as the senior officers forced him not to name the Trinamul MLA…. Now that the BDO has been asked to file a formal report, he will be under immense pressure to stick to the second complaint’s version,” a senior police officer said in the afternoon.
In the evening, Bansal asked Gayen to turn up at his Barasat office.
Sources said Gayen was asked to bring the report in a pen drive but the BDO carried a signed report along with him.
“He was in the DM’s room for over one-and-a-half hours and he was pressured till he finally agreed to draw up a more palatable report,” said a source.
The report from Gayen has become critical as the Election Commission has said the case was being pursued with “utmost seriousness”.
Sources said the commission has formed a special investigation team, reporting directly to the poll panel. The team, which has an additional superintendent of police and a sub-divisional police officer, was formed for a thorough probe after the district magistrate’s report was found to be “lacking in details”.
“The district magistrate’s report came in today. It is lacking in details and we need a more thorough report, which is why a special team has been formed. Based on that report, we will figure out our course of action,” a Nirvachan Sadan source said this evening.