KOLKATA: Mamata Banerjee on Monday alleged electoral malpractice in Nandigram on a massive scale, claiming a returning officer who turned down Trinamool’s pleas for a vote recount subsequently reported a threat to his life, suggesting he may have been “working at gunpoint”.
The Bengal CM, who lost in Nandigram to her former aide and BJP candidate Suvendu Adhikari by 1,956 votes, questioned how her 8,000-plus lead “suddenly became zero” after a server breakdown and a power cut.
“A returning officer sent an SMS at 11pm on Sunday night. I will not say to whom this was sent,” Mamata said, reading out the message that she said came to her as a forward. “The message goes, ‘Sir, it is not my purview. Sir, please save my family. My family will ruin (sic). I have no other option but to commit suicide. Life threat is coming. I may be murdered. I had nothing to do. Please forgive me, I have a little daughter’.”
When TOI contacted the returning officer (a deputy magistrate), he declined to comment on Mamata’s allegation and requested that he be not named. EC officials in Kolkata, too, refused to speak on the controversy.
“Can you understand what took place? The returning officer is saying it is a question of life and death,” Mamata had said, questioning the Election Commission’s “interest” in denying a recount and declaring she would “definitely move court” against the decision.
“What is there to fear in a recount? Why did the EC not allow this? What is their interest? All the journalists saw (what happened). The governor called me. And then everything turned upside down. I haven’t seen such mafiagiri. I want justice to prevail. Will definitely move court,” she said, adding that the BJP would not have crossed even the 50-seat mark had the EC been fair. “The rest of the 77 seats are the EC’s contribution.”
EC sources said a poll result announced by a returning officer could be challenged only in a court.
Mamata demanded that all postal ballots, EVMs and VVPATs involved in the Nandigram vote be kept separately and sealed. “There should be forensic tests if the seals are tampered with. They should be kept in safe custody,” she said. “I am happy that the Supreme Court has upheld the Madras high court order (on the EC’s handling of the Covid situation). People depend on courts for justice.”
The CM was alluding to the aapex court’s denial of an EC plea to stop media from reporting judges’ oral observations.
“People have decided that BJP is not Shahenshah. I thank Bengal’s people (all religions and linguistic groups) for showing that their spine is still very strong. Our mothers and sisters have shown us the path,” Mamata said.