Raj Bhavan urges ECI to act against CEO officials for 'leaking' list of goons to political leaders

Kolkata, Apr 20 (PTI) The Raj Bhavan here moved the Election Commission of India, urging it to identify and take strong action against officials in the office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of West Bengal who may have "leaked names of gangsters and goons" to political parties, sources said on Saturday.
    In the wake of the ongoing general elections, the office of Bengal Governor C V Ananda Bose had, using its own mechanism, compiled a list of suspected criminals across the state who could be used by political parties to intimidate voters on or before poll dates besides creating other law and order situations.
    In the second week of March, the Raj Bhavan had shared a list of such goons and anti-social elements with top officials of the CEO's office, West Bengal, through the state Director General of Police for appropriate pre-emptive action, an official said.
    "A few senior officials of the CEO office, West Bengal may have leaked the list of the suspected criminals, provided by the Raj Bhavan, to top political leaders of the state," the source told PTI and suggested that, in doing so, may have thwarted the governor's attempts to reign in criminal activities during the polls.
    The Raj Bhavan move comes in the wake of sustained face-offs between the governor's office and the state administration over political and administrative matters in Bengal.
    The move by Bose was also made within 48 hours of the Trinamool Congress complaining about him with the CEO for "repeatedly illegally interfering with the ensuing Lok Sabha Elections, 2024" after he reportedly made initial plans to visit poll areas during the silent period and the first phase on polls in north Bengal, an idea which the Governor later scrapped.
    The names of anti-social elements were gathered based on complaints received from people over the phone at the 'Peace Room' established by Governor Bose inside the Raj Bhavan premises and also from grassroots feedback he received during his field visits, the source said.
    "These goons and anti-social elements are likely to disrupt the voting process by scaring the common voters during the polls in this state. This disclosure of confidential and sensitive information is a gross violation of Clause E of the ECI manual (Document No: 324.6.EPS:MA: 004:2023)," he said.
    The official, however, refused to disclose the name of the political party or parties to whom the 'confidential' list was allegedly leaked.
    "… This exercise of identifying the persons responsible for making the voters/villages vulnerable shall be undertaken polling station wise indicating the name of (the) village, hamlet, names of the potential troublemakers, including their address, and so on. This work has to be done by maintaining complete confidentiality of the informers/source…" Clause E of the ECI manual states.
    Hence, the Raj Bhavan source added, "It was incumbent upon the Election Commission authorities of Bengal to maintain confidentiality of the sensitive information on goons."
    The CEO of West Bengal received a substantial number of complaints related to violence and voter/polling agent intimidation from three Lok Sabha constituencies – Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri and Alipurduars – which went for polls on Friday during the first phase of elections.
    The complaints were lodged by both the ruling Trinamool Congress as well opposition parties like the BJP, Left and Congress amid assertions from the CEO’s office that polling was "largely peaceful".
    Earlier on Wednesday, incidents of violence were reported during Ram Navami processions from Saktipur and Beldanga in Murshidabad district where at least four persons were injured.
    The ECI on Friday suspended the OCs of the two police stations for "failing in containing and preventing repeated communal violence in areas under their jurisdiction".
    Apprehensive that goons and anti-social elements would be used to scare voters by creating an atmosphere of violence and would be indulged in other electoral malpractices like casting of false votes, multiple opposition party leaders as well as those of the Trinamool Congress have also registered complaints with the poll body.
    The ECI, incidentally, has asked the Union Home ministry to deploy 920 companies of central forces in West Bengal, which is the highest in terms of such deployment anywhere in the country for this year's ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)