At the end of the first phase of elections in West Bengal today, a new front opened up between the BJP and Trinamool Congress – a tit-for-tat war of leaked phone conversations.
The BJP expose was directed at embarrassing Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with a call in which she is allegedly heard asking a former party worker to return to the fold.
The party worker is a follower of Suvendu Adhikari, Mamata Banerjee’s estranged aide, at Nandigram and firmly with the BJP.
She purportedly urges him to help Trinamool. He declines.
Embarrassing, maybe, but nothing illegal about it.
But the alleged phone conversation of two BJP leaders released by the Trinamool could damage the opposition party and hurt the non-partisan position of the Election Commission.
According to the Trinamool, in a conversation with BJP leader Shishir Bajoria, the party’s troubleshooter Mukul Roy asks him to include in a list of items to be raised with the Election Commission. One very specific request is about polling agents or booth agents of political parties.
NDTV cannot verify the authenticity of the tapes.
Booth agents of a party who sit inside polling booths on voting day are usually residents of the booth area.
Mr Roy purportedly says the Election Commission should be requested to pass administrative orders permitting any voter anywhere in Bengal to be booth agents at any booth in the state.
If we don’t get this done, the BJP won’t be able to field agents in many booths, Mr Roy is said to have told him.
Last week, the Election Commission passed an order allowing Bengal voters to be booth agents anywhere in the state.
The Trinamool has been asking for this order to be rescinded and a party delegation, led by MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay, met the commission on Saturday to reiterate their request Saturday.
Bengal reported 79.79 per cent voter turnout in the first phase of the 2021 assembly election that began this morning for 30 seats.
The ruling Trinamool Congress faces a stiff challenge in the state from the BJP (and a lesser one from the Congress-Left alliance) in its bid for a third straight term. In 2016 the Trinamool swept 26 of the 30 seats on offer today. Votes will be counted on May 2.