June 6: Courtesy calls can earn a ticket to the doghouse when a bypoll is peeping round the corner.
Nadia district magistrate Krishna Gupta has been transferred after the officer conceded that he had called on Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Wednesday while the chief minister was on his way to a campaign rally in Nabadwip.
The Nabadwip Lok Sabha seat is set to elect its representative on June 8, for which Gupta was the returning officer.
Gupta now finds himself shunted to Banga Bhavan in Delhi, where he is slated to take over as Bengal’s additional resident commissioner.
The transfer — the first such punishment in the state — has raised several eyebrows in a system where more serious slip-ups have gone unpunished, and at times even been rewarded.
The Opposition in Bengal often complains that the government gifts prize postings to police officers and bureaucrats who harass anti-Left political activists.
Bengal chief election commissioner S.. Haque said a political party had lodged a complaint about Gupta with the Election Commission in Delhi.
“Yesterday, I received a call from a senior EC official who wanted to know whether the complaint was true. I contacted Gupta who told me it was just a courtesy call and he had discussed drinking-water problems with the chief minister. Accordingly, I informed Delhi,” he said at Writers’ Buildings.
Another call came in the afternoon. “The EC asked me to remove Gupta from the post of returning officer as well as district magistrate till June 16,” Haque said.
CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said his party was not bothered about the decision.
But the Opposition claimed that Gupta had not only called on the chief minister at Krishnagar Circuit House but also accompanied him to two political rallies. Congress general secretary Manas Bhuniya said the party lodged an official complaint with the Election Commission yesterday.
Presidency division commissioner S.K. Magon will be the new returning officer for Nabadwip. Additional district magistrate (general) K.K. Pal will take over as Nadia district magistrate till June 16, the day the bypoll procedure ends.
The Congress and the Trinamul Congress were already raising allegations of partisan conduct by the administration in Nabadwip.
“We complained to the observers about the district magistrate not sharing our concerns about the possibility of terror being unleashed in Chakdah and Haringhata,” Nadia Trinamul leader Gouri Datta said.
“Besides, our demand that all 1,047 booths be declared sensitive found no response from the administration,” he added.