The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rao & gang coming, with change
- Trinamul advisory to EC: Don't bow to CPM

Calcutta/Midnapore, Jan. 30: The Election Commission has replaced one of the 19 observers tasked with overseeing electoral roll revision in poll-bound Bengal.

M. Nagaraju, an IAS officer of the Maharashtra cadre who toured Darjeeling in mid-January, has been replaced by N. Modi Rao.

After the past couple of weeks' brush with the poll panel and its officers, Bengal's mainline parties ' including both the CPM and Mamata Banerjee's Trinamul Congress ' declined to comment on the development.

'All that we expect from the EC (Election Commission) is firmness in the face of the CPM's pressure tactics. There should not be any drop in surveillance,' Trinamul's Pankaj Banerjee said in a thinly veiled reference to the CPM's recent charge against certain observers and their alleged Trinamul bias.

'This is something concerning the EC, so we won't comment. But we expect the obs-ervers to work impartially,' a CPM official said.

Earlier in January, Vivek Singh, an IAS officer of the Bihar cadre who was to tour Malda, was replaced by Devendra Singh. Vivek is a member of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar's secretariat.

V.V. Yadav, an IAS officer of the Orissa cadre, had visited Jalpaiguri on January 9 but left the same day citing an illness in the family.

Sanjeev Mishra, an Assam cadre officer, replaced him the next day.

The commission declined to elaborate on the replacements but officials said it 'wasn't happy with a few observers' performance in Bengal and had decided to replace them'.

The EC team includes K.J. Rao, the special adviser to the commission who will tour West Midnapore, and N.B. Dhal, who will go to Howrah. Anil Garg, who took stock of the roll revision in West Midnapore during his last visit, will tour Nadia, where Rao went earlier.

The rest will visit the same districts as last time.

Most observers will reach their destinations by tomorrow evening and will carry out their inspections from February 1 to February 8, chief electoral officer Debasish Sen said.

The Opposition parties in West Midnapore have begun gearing up for the arrival of K.J. Rao on Wednesday.

'We will show him how the CPM won by rigging the polls in Keshpur and Garbeta. We will also lodge complaints against CPM leaders and ministers Susanta Ghosh and Nandarani Dal, who won by huge margins after massive rigging during the 2001 elections,' district Trinamul president Ajit Bhuniya said.

The Congress leadership is more keen to lodge complaints about bogus voters, particularly in Kharagpur and Sabong. 'We have already submitted a list of 8,000 bogus voters and drawn up another list of 7,000, which will be submitted to Rao. Motorcycle-borne CPM workers are already making the rounds of villages intimidating traditional Congress voters,' alleged Nirmal Ghosh, district Congress president.

Across Bengal, over 40 lakh applications have been submitted for inclusion of names in voter lists.

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