Wall unites Mamata and Marxists

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Calcutta
  • Published 24.10.08
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Calcutta, Oct. 23: Graffiti has done what the governor could not: make Bengal’s irreconcilable politicians speak in the same voice.

The CPM and the Trinamul Congress today said they would like the Election Commission to reconsider the ban on writing poll slogans and pasting posters on walls even if private house-owners give permission to parties to do so.

Asked if state laws, which allow graffiti if the house-owner consents, would prevail over the Election Commission’s order, CPM state secretary Biman Bose said: “Of course. Although the EC directives are for the entire country, it can’t make state laws, which are already in vogue, null and void. We will stand by the state law and allow wall-writing with the owners’ permission.”

However, home secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti had said yesterday that once the model code of conduct came into force following the announcement of elections by the EC, the state government was bound to follow the directive of the commission.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee said today that she would write to the poll panel chief requesting an all-party meeting before issuing the order to ban graffiti.

“Some small parties like ours which cannot spend huge amounts on elections can only reach the electorate through graffiti. So, before issuing the order for banning wall-writing, the poll panel should take all parties into confidence,” she said at her Kalighat residence.

Bose hinted that the CPM would have no objection to the all-party meeting. “We are yet to get an official communication from the EC. We had written to the EC earlier on this, seeking a clarification, and will do so again,” he said.

“Either the EC should bear all the poll expenses or stop issuing such directives which will increase the cost of campaign and make it affordable only for rich parties,” Bose added.

The money symphony by the two rivals was in sharp contrast with the shrill discordant notes struck by their two parties before governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi when he facilitated the doomed talks on the Nano project.

Bose today referred to the Raj Bhavan initiative. “The governor, being the representative of the Centre, had no constitutional or legal locus standi to be part of any agreement. He facilitated the meeting between the government and the Opposition. But what he read out at the end of the meeting was just a declaration,” Bose said.

The CPM leader said the poll panel’s directives would have dangerous implications on the growth of democracy in the country.

Told that many people had alleged permission became a mere formality in the face of feared backlash by parties, Bose said: “The allegations are not correct. Permission must be obtained. I know people who entered into an agreement with the parties that the defaced wall would be painted after the polls are over. It was done according to agreement.”

Yesterday, chief electoral officer Debashis Sen had said the poll panel would allow only “easily removable” banners, hoardings and flags on private properties.

Bose agreed with one poll panel regulation, though — the prohibition on distributing saris and T-shirts with political symbols or candidates’ names on them.

But he was against the restriction on rallies in school or college grounds.

“Of course, rallies should be avoided when schools and colleges are in session. But if it is banned entirely, rallies will have to be held on roads causing traffic dislocations. Does the EC want that?” the CPM leader asked.