CPI-M alleges large-scale rigging in West Bengal, seeks repoll

The CPI-M Wednesday complained to the Election Commission of “widespread rigging” in the Lok Sabha election in West Bengal and demanded re-polling in several places to be overseen by paramilitary forces.

“There has been large-scale rigging and violence in the elections to the 16th Lok Sabha held in West Bengal today. This has completely distorted the process of conducting free and fair polls,” said the Communist Party of India-Marxist in a letter to the poll panel.

The party has demanded that a re-poll be conducted “with proper deployment of central paramilitary forces” in all the booths where rigging and violence have occurred, according to the letter.

The third phase of polling in West Bengal in nine of its 42 seats “was marred by widespread rigging, violence and capture of polling booths”, the CPI-M said in a statement earlier.

“Hundreds of polling booths were affected in Bolpur, Birbhum, Bardhaman Purba, Bardhaman-Durgapur, Howrah and Uluberia Lok Sabha constituencies,” it said.

“Polling agents of the CPI-M and the Left Front were driven out in a number of booths and blatant false voting has taken place in the presence of polling personnel.

The statement alleged that “Trinamool Congress goons have resorted to this brazen and illegal attack on the polling process, making a mockery of the democratic process”.

In another statement, the party called the rigging “a grave affront to parliamentary democracy” and said people’s faith in electoral process “can only be restored if a re-poll is conducted” in the affected booths.

This should be done “with proper deployment of central paramilitary forces so that people can vote freely and fairly”, it said.

The CPI-M also demanded a proper process to identify and apprehend those responsible for “grave malpractices and the consequent gross distortion of the election process”.

It said that of the 17,330 polling booths where polling was held Wednesday, only 324 had video surveillance. This issued must be addressed during re-poll, it said.

“This assault of democracy cannot be allowed to go unpunished.”

Asked if the CPI-M had been guilty of the same strong-arm tactics it was now accusing the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress of, party politburo member Sitaram Yechury said that “if we had used these tactics, they wouldn’t have been in power”.