The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bengal tastes Bihar poll pill

Calcutta, Nov. 26: Bihar out of the way, the Election Commission has fixed its gimlet eye on Bengal sooner than expected.

A touring team of Election Commission officials has hauled up five designated officers (DO) caught bunking work yesterday at booths where roll revision is under way for next year’s Assembly elections.

Ten others found playing truant today by B.K. Tiwari, the officer on special duty to the Election Commission, and K.R. Prasad, secretary to the Election Commission, will be issued showcause notices tomorrow.

This is the first time that the Election Commission has sent a team of officials from Delhi to monitor roll revision.

This round of checks will be followed by another in the middle of next week, to be carried out by chief election commissioner B.B. Tandon himself. He will also be checking out the status of execution of non-bailable arrest warrants.

Commission officials had suggested after the Bihar elections ' considered the fairest in the state known for bloodshed during polling ' that the same uncompromising model would be replicated in the Assembly polls next year.

Bengal elections are not infamous for violence but allegations of “scientific rigging” and other irregularities are widespread. The Opposition has been claiming that a closer look by the commission could slow down the famed and feared poll machine of the Left Front.

Prasad, the officer on special duty, was furious today when he found only one DO at Alipur Multipurpose School instead of three who were on duty. Immediately, he called up state chief electoral officer Debashis Sen to ask what was going on.

“Yes, he did call me around 10.30 am,” Sen confirmed. “The booths were supposed to open at 9 am but most of the staff were late. We’ll issue showcause notices to all officials against whom we’ve got complaints.”

While Prasad and his team inspected booths in Alipur, Ballygunge, Dhakuria, Rash Behari and Chowringhee constituencies today, Tiwari and his men toured the constituencies of Sealdah, Burrabazar, Vidyasagar and Bowbazar.

Four DOs were found missing in Burrabazar, three in Beliaghata and one in Sealdah.

During their rounds of north Calcutta yesterday, the team had come upon three booths in Burtolla I, II and III where there was not a single DO to be seen. At Muttilal Seal College, only four of eight DOs had reported for work.

Sen said many officials had been showcaused earlier for shirking duty. “We’re compiling a list of such employees. Punishment will be given to those whose punishment is pending,” he said.

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