The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong ‘terror’ sting

Calcutta, July 26: Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar today slammed the Left Front government for crippling the state election commission and taking control of it in the run-up to the panchayat elections in May.

“The West Bengal election commission has lost credibility as it is being controlled by the CPM headquarters on Alimuddin Street and the Writers’ Buildings as well,” Aiyar told a gathering of elected Congress panchayat functionaries at the Netaji Subhas Institute in Sealdah.

A team of NDA representatives, who visited the rural belts where Opposition candidates were allegedly not allowed to file nominations, had echoed Aiyar’s sentiment. It had submitted a report to NDA convenor George Fernandes, saying the CPM had rigged the polls by resorting to terror. They also demanded that the Election Commission intervene to ensure free and fair polls in the state.

The Congress leader, too, demanded that Nirvachan Sadan interfere in the functioning of its state unit if it is permissible under the commission’s rules.

Aiyar said the panchayat elections were not free and fair as CPM cadres had terrorised supporters of other parties. “The state election commission has played the role of a silent spectator as it is controlled by the Alimuddin Street mandarins,” he added.

Aiyar’s observations drew a sharp response from CPM state secretary Anil Biswas. “The Congress and the mainline Opposition parties have captured the zilla parishads in Malda and Murshidabad districts for the first time. How did they win the two zilla parishads if the elections were not free and fair'” he asked.

State Congress president Pranab Mukherjee, who attended the gathering, said his party will soon launch a statewide movement in protest against the government’s decision to increase several taxes.

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