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EC readies query

Calcutta, May 2: The Election Commission is set to ask special observer Sudhir Kumar Rakesh why he left Bengal for three days ahead of Wednesday’s polling and why he was not in office till afternoon that day.

The polling in Bengal drew nearly 2,000 allegations of malpractice against the ruling establishment. Rakesh had said the elections “held so far were absolutely free, fair and peaceful”.

“He will be asked to explain a few things,” said a source in New Delhi this evening. “Let him first explain himself,” the source said in response to clamour from the Opposition in Bengal seeking the official’s removal.

The 1983 batch Bihar-cadre IAS officer had left Bengal for the neighbouring state on Saturday morning and returned on Monday evening.

“I don’t know what happened to himů. Before leaving for Bihar last weekend, he was a tiger. When he came back, he became a cat,” Left Front chairman Biman Bose said.

State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury sent a letter to chief election commissioner V.S. Sampath, echoing the demand. “He (Rakesh) wasn’t even taking calls or responding to texts on the day of polls,” said Chowdhury.

BJP state president Rahul Sinha, who met Rakesh this morning, said the party’s hopes for free, fair and peaceful polls were “shattered” in the third phase.

Late this evening, Rakesh said he would not comment on what parties had said about him. Asked about the commission’s plan to seek an explanation, Rakesh said: “Whether the commission has asked me, is asking me or will ask me for such a thing is not something I’m supposed to share with the media. This is not part of my assignment.”

Yesterday, Rakesh had said inquiries revealed that most of the allegations were “incorrect. The official said he responded to over 300 phone calls and 150-odd text messages on polling day.


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