The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Push back poll: Pranab

Malda, May 4: State Congress chief Pranab Mukherjee today demanded postponement of panchayat elections at Chopra and Islampur in North Dinajpur district.

Addressing a news conference at Gour Bhavan here this afternoon, Mukherjee said: “The situation, both at Chopra and Islampur, is not conducive to holding panchayat elections. It will be a farce to hold an election now. Terror-stricken people have deserted the villages and they take no comfort in administration assurances that they would not be tortured once they return.”

Left Front chairman Biman Bose, however, ruled out the possibility of postponing the elections. “I find no reason why the elections should be postponed. It is true that the situation is tense there. But things will be normal within two to three days and there will be no problem for the people to exercise their franchise,” he told reporters at the CPM party office here.

A three-member Congress delegation will call on state election commissioner Ajoy Sinha tomorrow to press for postponement of the poll in the violence-hit areas.

Bose, who arrived here today, will leave for North Dinajpur tomorrow. He blamed the Congress for the situation in Chopra. “It is the Congress party which had spearheaded the attack on our party workers,” he said.

Reacting to Bose’s observation, Mukherjee said: “It is funny that the Left Front chairman justified the attack on the Congress families by his partymen on the ground that the Congress had started it. Bose’s statement sounds like that of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi who had justified the riot in his state, claiming that it was the people’s ‘natural outburst’ after the Godhra incident.”

The state Congress chief demanded a judicial inquiry into the Chopra incident. “There is total lawlessness in Chopra and Islampur Assembly constituencies. Political clashes, murders and arson have been going on in these two areas regularly for the past few days,” he added.

Bose took a swipe at the Congress leader, questioning how he could assess the law and order situation during a three-hour trip to Chopra and plead for pushing back the polls. “Mukherjee is a veteran Congress leader. I expected responsible behaviour from him. He could have demanded an all-party meeting to restore peace in the area,” he added.

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