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CM rails, rivals unite

Calcutta, April 7: Opposition parties, which had complained to the Election Commission against state officials showing bias for the ruling establishment, today condemned chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s outburst against the poll panel.

Mamata told a rally in Hooghly’s Pandua: “I will not accept this (the Election Commission’s decision to transfer eight officers). I will not remove any of these officers… You (EC) can remove them. It is your responsibility.”

She said the removal of the officers from election duty was a “conspiracy hatched by the EC, the Congress, the CPM and the BJP. The EC is acting on their instructions….”

Leader of the Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra described the chief minister’s remarks as “dangerous”. “The constitution has clearly spelt out the jurisdiction of the Election Commission. What she has said is extra-constitutional and dangerous for those who believe in parliamentary democracy. I would request her to withdraw the statement, or it could bring trouble to the state,” he said.

Although Mishra did not commit on whether the CPM would move the EC against Mamata’s remarks, the state BJP has decided to do so.

“She has violated the model code of conduct and shown utter disregard for the Constitution. We are going to write to the EC to take cognisance of this and take steps accordingly,” said Rahul Sinha, the state BJP chief.

Pradip Bhattacharya, the Congress Rajya Sabha MP and former PCC president, echoed Sinha.

Former Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim of the CPM said the chief minister had no choice in this regard as the EC’s order was “binding on government officers”, with the poll panel taking control of the administration after announcement of the elections.

The CPM has decided to take up the issue in its campaign rallies. “The chief minister’s refusal to follow the EC’s directive will feature prominently in our campaign. If the party head does not obey rules, how can we expect the followers to do so? We will go to the people with this,” said a CPM state committee member.

State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury said tonight: “The outburst against the EC’s decision shows her disrespect for the Constitution.”

Mamata’s railing against the poll panel has caused discomfort in a section of Trinamul. A cabinet minister, on the condition of anonymity, said the chief minister should have avoided criticising the EC. “This would be handy for the Opposition to be used against us during their campaigns,” he said.