Calcutta, April 1: Block development officers in North 24-Parganas have been asked not to lodge police complaints immediately if they face resistance from political parties while enforcing the Election Commission’s model code of conduct, sources said.
District magistrate Sanjay Bansal apparently gave this advice to the BDOs at a meeting this afternoon.
“We have been asked to properly communicate with the political parties in case of any dispute while implementing the code instead of rushing to the police,” said a BDO who did not want to be named.
“We have been told to contact our superiors (bureaucrats) if we can’t bring a situation under control.”
Bansal neither confirmed nor denied asking BDOs not to go to the police. “We have asked them to keep a close eye on model code violations and inform their superiors if they find any,” he said.
The BDO who spoke to this newspaper said Bansal cited the example of BDO Dinabandhu Gayen who was allegedly abused and, according to his first letter to police, assaulted after he removed posters, banners and festoons carrying the chief minister’s photographs in Ashoknagar.
“The DM said that if we face any adverse situation, we should sit with the aggrieved party and make them understand that our hands are tied. He stressed the need to develop communication skills to be able to take the offenders into confidence,” said the BDO, who was not associated with the Ashoknagar controversy.
Poll commission rules, however, do not allow any dialogue or negotiation with model code violators, a commission official said. “All officers working in the poll process have clear instructions to lodge a police complaint if they face resistance.”
The BDO said: “If we face any problems removing banners and posters, we have been asked to leave the place and then return at night with police and do the job silently.”
District secretariat sources said the new instructions were given after the Ashoknagar incident triggered controversy amid reports of delayed action and the revelation that Gayen changed his initial version, diluting the charges.