'Factually incorrect': EC on Mamata's claims about presence of outsiders at Nandigram polling booth

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West Bengal's Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee takes notes while sitting in a wheelchair at a polling station during Phase 2 of West Bengal's legislative election in Nandigram on April 1, 2021. (Photo by DIBYANGSHU SARKAR / AFP) (Photo by DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP via Getty Images)
West Bengal's Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee takes notes while sitting in a wheelchair at a polling station during Phase 2 of West Bengal's legislative election in Nandigram on April 1, 2021. (Photo by DIBYANGSHU SARKAR / AFP) (Photo by DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP via Getty Images)

New Delhi, Apr 4 (PTI) In a strongly worded rejoinder to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the Election Commission has rejected her claim about the presence of outsiders at a polling booth in Nandigram as 'factually incorrect' and 'devoid of substance'.

In a letter to Banerjee on Saturday, Election Commission (EC) Secretary General Umesh Sinha also said, 'It is being separately examined whether happenings of April 1 merit any action under Sections 131 and 123(2) of RP (Representation of the People) Act and/or Model Code of Conduct.' Section 131 deals with penalty for disorderly conduct in or near polling stations, while Section 123 (2) pertains to 'undue influence, that is to say, any direct or indirect interference or attempt to interfere on the part of the candidate or his agent, or of any other person with the free exercise of any electoral right.

The letter did not specify to whom it was referring to with regard to taking possible action.

The EC sent the letter to Banerjee, who is the Trinamool Congress chief, in response to a complaint filed by her on April 1, when polling was held in Nandigram, alleging irregularities in the polling process.

In its point-by-point rejoinder, the EC said Banerjee's letter regarding booth capturing and the presence of outsiders at a polling booth in Boyal was 'preceded by a massive coverage all over the country... which showed dozens of audio-visual shots of your being in this polling station and literally hurling an avalanche of allegations on some officials working with the government of West Bengal itself, paramilitary forces and eventually the Election Commission'.

Citing reports received from the ground, including from its observers, the poll body said, 'It is self-evident from the perusal of all the reports that the allegations mentioned in your hand-written note are factually incorrect, without any empirical evidence whatsoever and devoid of substance.' The commission said it is a matter of 'deep regret' that a 'media narrative was sought to be weaved hour after hour to misguide the biggest stakeholders, which is the voters, by a candidate who also happens to be CM of the state'.

At least this should have been appreciated that the 'side show' was fraught with immense potential to have an adverse impact on law and order across West Bengal and may be in some other states, it said.

'And all this was being done when the election process was/is on. There could not have been a greater misdemeanour,' the letter stated.

Banerjee, who is contesting the West Bengal elections from Nandigram, had visited a booth in Boyal when polling was underway on April 1.

According to Chief Electoral Officer Ariz Aftab, wheelchair-bound Banerjee was stuck in the booth for almost two hours as two groups raised slogans against each other.

A large number of Central Armed Police Forces personnel and senior officers reached there and brought out the chief minister after bringing the situation under control.

Later, Banerjee blamed outsiders for creating trouble.

She also accused the EC of not acting on complaints of alleged irregularities in the polling process in Nandigram lodged by her party, Trinamool Congress. PTI NAB ANB ANB