| Bhattacharjee addresses the crowd at Araidanga. Picture by Surajit Roy
Araidanga (Malda), Sept. 7: Election observer Rahul Garg turned up at the football grounds here today to see what transpired at the chief minister’s address.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the chief minister, was here to campaign for Sailen Sarkar, the CPM candidate for the by-election to the Malda Lok Sabha constituency. The seat had fallen vacant after the death of veteran Congress leader A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury.
What irked Garg most was that many of the buses that had ferried CPM supporters to the venue did not have permission to be used for political gatherings. He approached the drivers, who were resting in the nearby mango orchards, and asked them about their permits.
“Why are so many vehicles here without any permits' What have you done to see to it that such things do not happen'” Garg asked the additional police superintendent, Debashis Boral, who was accompanying him.
Asked whether permission was necessary even for smaller vehicles like cars, Garg said: “Look at the large number of vehicles here. So many cars are not allowed under election guidelines. I will submit my report to the commission and not answer you.” The observer ordered his cameraman to photograph everything — from the festoons and banners to the dais where the chief minister was seated.
He then went into the crowd, asking people whether they were enticed to attend the meeting. Some told him that they had turned up on their own free will while others said they were brought here in vehicles.
Bhattacharjee and Sarkar, however, appeared unperturbed about the presence of the observer. Addressing a huge gathering, the chief minister said he honoured the work done by Ghani Khan for Malda’s development.
“But why should an inefficient person (read Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury, the brother of the late Congress MP) replace him' Who has heard or seen the Congress candidate'” Bhattacharjee asked.
Blaming the Centre for the erosion problem in Malda, the chief minister said: “Priya Ranjan Das Munshi (the Raiganj MP) told me that the water resources department would look after it and see what has happened in the past two years (when Das Munshi was in charge of this portfolio). Never trust that person.”
Later in the evening, the chief minister addressed another gathering at the district school grounds in Malda town, 22 km from here.