Mamata Banerjee injured: EC rebuts criticism over 'attack', says TMC letter 'full of insinuations, averments'
In its letter, the TMC had accused the EC of acting 'as per orders' of the BJP leaders and claimed that Mamata Banerjee wasn't provided proper security despite 'several comments by BJP leaders that she might be attacked'
The Election Commission on Thursday issued a "strongly-worded" reply to the Trinamool Congress' letter over the alleged attack on West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in Nandigram.
A day after Mamata sustained injuries while campaigning in Nandigram, the TMC had written to the EC, criticising it for "failing to provide proper security" to West Bengal chief minister.
Mamata is contesting the election from Nandigram against former aide Suvendu Adhikari who joined BJP ahead of the West Bengal Assembly polls, which are set to take place from 27 March in eight phases.
Claiming that the attack was a "deep-rooted conspiracy to take the life of the TMC chief", party leaders had said that anti-social elements have been "mobilised from the neighbouring states by the BJP in Nandigram" to unleash violence.
However, the EC refuted the statements made in the letter, and said that it seems "undignified to even respond" to allegations that the poll panel is doing things in the state at the behest of a "particular party".
The EC said that it needs to be stated at the outset that injuries sustained by Mamata at Nandigram "is indeed an unfortunate incident and deserves to be inquired into with promptitude and dispatch".
"Having said that, it is rather unfortunate that the memorandum in question is full of insinuations and averments, which, in fact, questions the very basis of creation and functioning of (the) Election Commission," the letter said.
It is completely incorrect to suggest that the Election Commission has taken over the law and order machinery in the state in the name of conducting elections and appropriated the whole governance structure, the poll panel said.
"This virtually tantamount to undermine the very foundation of the Constitution of India, the most sacrosanct document in democratic polity. The Commission does not appropriate or take over the day-to-day governance of any state including West Bengal...," it noted.
The EC also addressed the party's accusations over the removal of West Bengal Director General of Police Virendra.
TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee had said, "The law and order situation in Bengal was good. But, after the announcement of elections, law and order become the responsibility of the EC. The EC removed (the) DGP of the state police, and the very next day she was attacked."
The poll panel said that Virendra was not removed summarily and without any application of mind.
"It was the outcome of the recommendation given by Special Observers Ajay Nayak and Vivek Dube. In fact, yesterday also when the Commission became aware of the unfortunate incident from the electronic media, report was immediately sought from the Chief Secretary, West Bengal and from both the Special Observers, at present in West Bengal, within 48 hours.... Till such time the reports are available to the Commission it will not be possible to draw any empirical conclusion let alone start linking it to the removal of earlier DGP Virendra."
Meanwhile, earlier on Thursday, the police told the EC in a preliminary report that the incident was 'not an attack' but an accident due to a massive crowd, according to several media reports.
The EC had issued an investigation into the incident on Wednesday night.
As per The Print, the report took relies on video footage and accounts from police and eyewitnesses including members of the TMC. The report states that the chief minister was hurt when her car, while maneuvering through a crowded bazaar, hit a small iron pillar.
Mamata had on Wednesday claimed a conspiracy and alleged that four or five unidentified men shoved her. State BJP vice-president Arjun Singh had accused Mamata of "doing drama to gain sympathy".
The incident came amid an already-volatile atmosphere due to the upcoming Assembly elections.
The report states that Banerjee was waving at people with her car door open and hurt her feet when the car door slammed shut after hitting a pillar.
As per News18, the preliminary report submitted to the poll panel is not conclusive in nature and the final report will be made available after talking to all eyewitnesses. But officials told News18 no evidence has been found to suggest that any group or gathering "was formed to lead the attack" though there were lapses by the security team.
The police earlier on Thursday registered a case on the basis of a complaint by TMC leader Sheikh Sufian. The case was lodged under IPC sections 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint) and 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), a senior police officer of the Purba Medinipur district said.
This preliminary report comes just hours Mamata, from her hospital bed, released a video urging her supporters to remain calm.
Banerjee said she will be back for the poll campaign in a few days and will use a wheelchair "if needed".
— All India Trinamool Congress (@AITCofficial) March 11, 2021
"I would appeal to my party cadres, supporters, activist and common people to maintain peace and calm. It is true that I was badly hurt last night and felt severe pain in the chest and head. The doctors are looking after me," she said, in the video posted on Twitter.
"I appeal to everyone to maintain peace. I hope to be back on the field in the next few days," Mamata said.
Mamata's appeal to her supporters came amid widespread protests by Trinamool Congress workers across the state.
The TMC activists blocked roads, burnt tyres and raised slogans, blaming the BJP for the incident. Besides several areas in Kolkata, including Chetla and Sovabazar, TMC workers protested in Howrah, Hooghly, Bankura, Paschim Medinipur, Jalpaiguri, Paschim Bardhaman and Purba Medinipur.
'Severe injuries in left ankle, foot'
On the medical front, doctors treating her said that her condition is stable but she is experiencing "severe pain" in her injured left leg and has a low sodium concentration in blood. She will be under strict observation for the time being, PTI quoted them as saying.
"The chief minister has severe bony injuries in her left ankle and foot, besides injuries in right shoulder, forearm and neck. She is stable now but is having severe pain in the injured leg," a senior doctor at the state-run SSKM Hospital said.
"The board of doctors evaluated her condition in the afternoon and have decided to conduct a further radiological investigation to exclude any pathology arising out of the the post-traumatic syndrome," he said. The doctors will meet again in the evening for another round of review.
Till Thursday afternoon, Banerjee had undergone around eight different types of blood tests, PTI reported, quoting sources. The doctors are planning to conduct a series of medical tests, including a CT scan, to assess the degree of her injuries, they said.
"A temporary plaster was done on her left ankle. Her ECG report was fine. Her fever has subsided," one of the sources said.
The state government constituted a six-member medical team to treat Banerjee, and doctors conducted an X-ray on the chief minister as soon as she was taken to the hospital from Nandigram on Wednesday evening.
'Deep-rooted conspiracy': TMC
Meanwhile, the TMC slammed the Election Commission for failing to provide proper security to Mamata, and said that the EC can't shun responsibility as it is in charge of law and order situation in the poll-bound state.
TMC leaders Derek O'Brien, Partha Chatterjee, Saugata Roy, Kakoli Gosh Dastidar, Shatabdi Roy are likely to be a part of the delegation that will meet officials of the Election Commission in Delhi on Friday, reports said. "We will be wearing black bands as part of our protest against this incident," Chatterjee was quoted by News18 as saying.
A delegation of the party also met poll officials in Kolkata on Thursday after filing a complaint on Wednesday.
Claiming that the attack was a "deep-rooted conspiracy to take the life of TMC chief", the party leaders said anti-social elements have been "mobilised from the neighbouring states by the BJP in Nandigram" to unleash violence.
Accusing the EC of acting "as per orders" of the BJP leaders, the TMC delegation, after meeting the EC officials, aeged that the "Election Commission did nothing despite there being reports of a possible attack on Banerjee".
"The law and order situation in Bengal was good. But, after the announcement of elections, law and order become the responsibility of the EC. The EC removed DGP of the state police, and the very next day she was attacked," TMC secretary-general Chatterjee said.
The Election Commission had on Tuesday ordered removal of Virendra as Director-General of Police with immediate effect and appointed P Nirajnayan in his place.
Claiming that several comments by senior BJP leaders had dropped enough hints that Banerjee might be attacked, Chatterjee said "despite having those inputs the chief minister was left with no proper security".
"Who will take responsibility for the attack on Mamata Banerjee, when EC is in charge of administration? EC has to take responsibility for the incident. They are acting as per orders of the BJP leaders. The BJP is asking the EC to remove an official, and they are removing him," he said.
BJP leaders visit Mamata in hospital
A delegation of BJP leaders visited Mamata in the SSKM Hospital in Kolkata. Former governor of Tripura and Meghalaya Tathagata Roy
and state BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya, who went to the state-run hospital, said that they could not meet the Trinamool Congress chief because of medical reasons.
"We conveyed our concern to the TMC leaders present, including minister Arup Biswas, and wished the chief minister a speedy recovery," Bhattacharya said.
However, BJP West Bengal unit president Dilip Ghosh demanded a CBI probe into the alleged attack, saying that it needs to be seen whether the incident was a "well-scripted drama" to garner votes.
Speaking to reporters, Ghosh said that the people of the state have seen such "drama" earlier as well. "It needs to be probed what actually happened. How come a Z-plus protectee gets attacked is a matter that has to be looked into. The state should order a CBI probe to bring
out the truth," he said.
"It needs to be seen whether it was a true incident or a well-scripted drama," Ghosh said, referring to Banerjee's photos on the hospital bed with her leg plastered. Ghosh said that "such a drama" to garner sympathy votes, sensing defeat, would not yield any results this time.
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik also expressed concern over Mamata's health. "Concerned to know about the hospitalisation of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Wishing her speedy recovery and praying for good health," Patnaik said on Twitter.
With inputs from PTI
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