| CPM MP Jyotirmoyee Sikdar (right) campaigns for Sailen Sarkar in Malda town on Sunday. Picture by Surajit Roy
Malda, Sept. 10: Union minister for parliamentary affairs Priya Ranjan Das Munshi has got embroiled in a bitter war of words with the CPM in the lead up to the by-elections to the Malda Lok Sabha constituency.
The seat fell vacant after the death of the late Congress MP, A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury. Ghani Khan’s brother Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury is the Congress candidate for the by-polls, while the CPM has given the ticket to state parliamentary affairs minister Sailen Sarkar.
The row over Das Munshi began with the CPM lodging a complaint with the Election Commission and the returning officer of the district over the Union minister’s alleged “attempts to influence” the observers and district officials.
District secretary of the party Jiban Moitra said: “It is strange that a Union minister has been camping here, ignoring his responsibilities to his department, and holding frequent meetings with the observers and election officers.”
Moitra alleged that accompanied by the Congress candidate Das Munshi had held such a meeting at the circuit house on September 6.
Thought the district secretary admitted that each an every person had the right to meet the observers, he went on to add: “But when a Union minister along with the candidate holds a meeting with an observer, is there any guarantee that he (observer) is not going to be influenced'”
According to Moitra, Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, too, had addressed some election rallies in the district recently. But Das Munshi, Moitra claimed, has been camping here “simply to influence the observers and officers”.
The district CPM chief said he had already faxed a complaint to the chief election commissioner urging him to intervene immediately.
Das Munshi, however, levelled a counter allegation stating that Sarkar, as an important minister in the state government, was trying to influence the administration by his presence here.
The Union minister also expressed fears that the polls in the state would not be free and fair due to, what he put it as, inadequate deployment of central forces.
“It is heard that all the booths will not be manned by the central forces. But we want the deployment of central force at each booth and presence of at lease one observer in all the seven Assembly segments,” Das Munshi said.
The Congress leader claimed that he had information that 22 companies of central forces would arrive in Malda for election duty. Twenty-two companies can hardly cover 40 per cent of the booths, he said.
Reacting to Das Munshi’s apprehensions, CPM central committee member Shyamal Chakraborty said the central forces had manned all the booths in the Assembly elections held hardly three months ago, but that had had no effect on the Left Front’s hold over the state. “We all know the election results,” he said. “That is not to say that we are against deployment of central forces. The fact is, Das Munshi and his party are scared, anticipating a defeat in the Malda by-polls.”