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Zero-tolerance of poll law
Four out of five seats in North 24-Parganas show no consent letter for graffiti

Calcutta, March 19: An official report has been unable to record a single consent letter for using private walls for poll graffiti in as many as four of the five Lok Sabha constituencies in North 24-Parganas.

At 11.30pm on Thursday, the report compiled by the district election officer of North 24-Parganas mentioned “zero” in the column meant for permission letters concerning Bongaon, Barrackpore, Dum Dum and Barasat.

The same figure adorned the column for Basirhat, too, till the evening but was revised to 65 later. Which suggests that in the five constituencies that have thousands of houses emblazoned with graffiti, only 65 letters of permission have been submitted, although such submission is mandatory three days before the walls are defaced.

Some political leaders dropped innuendoes suggesting lethargy on the part of police stations in sending the information or by the administration in updating the list. The number might swell overnight, too, given the parties’ tactics to wangle belated consent letters.

But district administration officials said the data was being collected daily as directed by the Election Commission. “Till this evening, we have not got any letter of permission, which the political parties are supposed to submit with the police stations before writing wall graffiti on private properties,” an official said.

The report (see chart) is uploaded on the district administration’s website www.north24parganas.gov.in.

Although the report does not give a break-up of the complaints, which usually range from bribing electorate to using beacon lights atop vehicles, a source told The Telegraph that around 80 to 90 per cent of the allegations were related to graffiti without obtaining the permission of the owners.

According to the Election Commission’s rules, candidates or political parties need to obtain written permission from the owner of the property and submit it to the local police station within three days of obtaining the consent or three days before writing wall graffiti, whichever is earlier.

The returning officer of the constituency is supposed to initiate action against violators.

An official said the administration had removed wall writing and banners from several public buildings and private properties. The report puts this number at 299, and refers to a lone instance of prosecution in Dum Dum.

The revised data shows only four individual complaints across five constituencies — perhaps a reflection of the fear among the people. The other complaints have been filed by the administration on its own.

“CPM supporters painted the wall without our permission. When my husband asked them, they said that they will take the permission later and promised to repaint the wall after the election,” said a lady whose house off Jessore Road falls in the Dum Dum seat.

Graffiti knows no colour bar. “Trinamul supporters have said they will get my sign on a no-objection letter for using the outer wall,” said the owner of a building near Baguiati.

CPM’s Amitava Nandy is taking on Trinamul’s Saugata Roy in Dum Dum. “We have got permission for wall writing. I do not know why the administration is giving an erroneous report,” Nandi said.

Echoing him, Roy said: “We have completed all formalities to use walls.”

Inputs from Tamaghna Banerjee and Meghdeep Bhattacharyya

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