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BJP demands media observer for Bengal

The BJP want Bengal to be declared “sensitive” and central forces to be deployed in every polling booth

By Our Bureau in Calcutta
  • Published 14.03.19, 1:56 AM
  • Updated 14.03.19, 1:56 AM
  • a min read
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BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad addresses the media after a meeting with the Election Commission of India in New Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI)

The BJP, whose government at the Centre has enjoyed the services of pliable media outlets known as “North Korean channels”, has asked the Election Commission to appoint a “media observer” to ensure free and fair polls in Bengal.

It figured among the key demands placed by a BJP delegation, which included central ministers, before the poll panel on Wednesday.

The party, which wants to make the state a thrust area for the general election, also demanded that the entire Bengal be declared “sensitive”, central forces be deployed in every polling booth and “biased” officers be kept out of poll duty.

“Bengal’s track record on free and fair elections is very deplorable,” law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said after meeting the panel.

Prasad accused the Mamata Banerjee government of not allowing the media to function independently.

“The media is browbeaten in Bengal. There should be a proper media observer to ensure free and fair polls,” he said.

Led by law minister Prasad, the delegation included defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, health minister J.P. Nadda, general secretaries Bhupendra Yadav and Kailash Vijayvargiya, apart from Mukul Roy.

In Calcutta, Mamata ridiculed the BJP’s demand, wondering whether why the party was “so afraid”.

“What’s the reason behind declaring all booths sensitive in Bengal? Why are they so afraid? Why are they scared?” Mamata asked during a news conference on Wednesday evening.

Mamata accused the BJP of trying to curb media freedom by seeking observers.

“They want to control the media. This is a matter of shame…. Where is the freedom of press? They started persecuting N. Ram (chairman of The Hindu Publishing Group) because he exposed the Rafale case. Now they want to control Bengal media,” Mamata said.