Congress opposes ECI clampdown in Bengal

"There are certain norms and principles in a democracy"

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The Congress on Thursday registered strong protest with the Election Commission for its invoking Article 324 of the Constitution and curbing campaigns in Bengal for 20 hours, the first time in the history of the Indian elections.

Rajya Sabha MP and senior Congress leader Pradip Bhattacharya met with the Chief Electoral Officer of West Bengal, Ariz Aftab, and termed the invoking of Article 324 "illegal".

"Yes, the provision is there. But, the ECI cannot do that unilaterally. They have to consult all parties before taking such a bold and unprecedented step," Bhattacharya told THE WEEK.

He has asked the CEO to send his complaint to the chief election commissioner and other election commissioner to reconsider the decision. 

The Article 324 of Constitution talks about the power of superintendence, control and direction of election is vested solely with the ECI. When reminded, Bhattacharya said, "I know they have the power. But, there are certain norms and principles in democracy. No institution could run on the basis of unilateral decision without taking the political parties, which are stakeholders, into confidence, particularly in the case of elections."

When asked if Congress was rallying around Mamata Banerjee, Bhattacharya said, "No. Not at all. Both of them are equally responsible for the vitiating the atmosphere in Bengal."

He said the ECI considered only the TMC and the BJP as the sole stakeholders in Bengal while taking such an extreme decision.

"I admit that the TMC has carried out huge violence and broke all political norms and ethics. And the BJP lodged a complaint against it. But how could they act on the basis of complaint of a single political party while our demands of repolling in several booths were unheard?" asked Bhattacharya.

The Congress MP, however, condemned the attack on the Amit Shah's road show and blamed the Kolkata police commissioner for it.

"I fully agree that Amit Shah, being the president of a political party, has every right to do the road show. But why did the police allow this route where most of the time Section 144 is imposed due to locations of several educational institutes and major hospitals? West Bengal administration relaxed the section for few hours. The commissioner could have easily taken Shah's roadshow on a different route in North Kolkata."