April 21: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said he had assured the Centre that the panchayat polls in Bengal will be peaceful.
On his return from the CPM politburo meet in Delhi on April 16, Bhattacharjee said, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani had enquired about him from Tripura chief minister Manick Sarkar, also part of the politburo.
“Manick Sarkar called me up in Calcutta on April 18 and told me that Advani was enquiring about me. May be, he (Advani) wanted to tell me something. So, I rang up Advaniji,” said the chief minister.
Advani had told him about certain allegations made by human resources development minister Murli Monahar Joshi relating to the polls and wanted to know the actual situation.
Joshi was in the city last week and had demanded postponement of the rural polls. The CPM has unleashed a “reign of terror” in the villages, scaring away candidates and preventing them from filing nominations, he said.
“I told him (Advani) two things. First, that we are in regular touch with the Opposition parties. Whenever we have received specific complaints — like in Jangipara, Dubrajpur, Khairasol and Barasat — we have asked police to take appropriate steps. But, we cannot help in places where the Opposition has not been able to field candidates. If there are incidents where candidates are being disturbed, the police can take action,” said Bhattacharjee.
He added that Advani had asked him to ensure a peaceful panchayat election. “I told him that the election will definitely be peaceful. This is what I told Advaniji and nothing more.”
But BJP leaders in Delhi demanded Central intervention. Party president Venkaiah Naidu said: “The Centre should ask the state to take necessary action or direct it to do so... It is a mockery of the election process.”
BJP spokesperson V.K. Malhotra alleged that the CPM cadre had “captured the state election commission” and were “controlling the police”. Earlier, Trinamul and Left MPs clashed in Parliament after Mamata Banerjee raised the issue.
Political observers said Mamata’s meeting with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Delhi yesterday may have been prompted by Bhattacharjee’s dialogue over telephone with Advani.
“Mamata is aware of the fact that Buddhababu has a working relationship with Advani and Vajpayee. As soon as she came to know that the chief minister had talked to Advani over the panchayat polls, she sought to take her anti-CPM campaign to Delhi,” sources close to Mamata said.