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EC curtails campaigning in Bengal: Mamata slams 'unethical, unfair' decision; Jaitley says 'breakdown of constitutional machinery' behind move

In an unprecedented first, the Election Commission (EC) invoked Article 324 of the Constitution and announced that campaigning will end at 10 pm on Thursday in West Bengal, a day before its scheduled deadline ahead of the seventh and last phase of the Lok Sabha polls on 19 May.

The EC's decision came a day after the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) clashed during BJP chief Amit Shah's roadshow in Kolkata, during which the city witnessed wide-spread violence. A bust of 19th century Bengali icon Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was also vandalised during the incident.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee held a press conference after the EC's announcement, calling the clamping of Article 324 a gift by the poll panel to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "There is no such law and order problem in West Bengal that Article 324 can be clamped... This is not EC's direction; it is the BJP's direction. This is the direction of Narendra Modi and (BJP chief) Amit Shah. The EC's decision is unfair, unethical and politically biased," she told reporters in Kolkata.

Meanwhile, Congress leader Ahmed Patel and CPM leader Sitaram Yechury asked why the poll panel chose to let campaigning continue till 10 pm on Thursday despite having taken note of the violence. Yechury also said that the poll panel should've first acted against the perpetrators of violence before deciding to bar campaigning.

Delhi chief minister and AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal wrote on Twitter that the people of Bengal will give a "befitting reply to Modi-Shah-led perpetrators of violence and hooliganism".

Meanwhile, Union Minister Arun Jaitley tweeted that the EC’s direction points at the breakdown of constitutional machinery in West Bengal.

The EC has barred election campaigning in Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jaynagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata Dakshin and Kolkata Uttar.

It also ordered the removal of Principal Secretary (Home) Atri Bhattacharya and Additional Director General, CID, Rajiv Kumar from their postings in West Bengal. "This is for the first time such a measure has been taken using the EC's constitutional powers. But this is not going to be the last," Kumar said.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: May 15, 2019 23:42:24 IST