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CPI(M) skirts Govt order to look for EC on wall graffiti

Written by: Staff

Kolkata, Mar 1: Even though the West Bengal Government has banned wall graffiti throughout the state, the CPI(M) chooses to walk on a different line throwing a curious smokescreen on the pre-poll political scene.

Though remaining stoic about the merit of the blanket ban before the coming assembly elections, the party is only looking for a guideline from the Election Commission to go by, making its stand clear on the government order.

''I have written to the EC seeking its instructions on wall writing. We are waiting for a reply soon,'' CPI(M) State Secretary Anil Biswas said.

Indicating that the party was not ready to obey the government order till the EC, the ultimate arbiter in the poll-related matters, came up with a clear directive, Mr Biswas said he had also obtained legal opinions on the issue.

In a move which even took a lead ahead of the EC, going tough in the poll-bound state, the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government extended on February 17 the ambit of the West Bengal (Prevention of) Defacement of Property Act, 1976 prohibiting all kinds of writings on public, private and corporate buildings.

While the EC, in its directive in the past had allowed wall campaigns with the permission of the house owner, the state Act does not leave any room for political parties even for permission stipulating stringently that nothing except name and address of the occupant would be allowed to be written.

The Act, which came into being during the regime of the previous Congress government, headed by Mr Siddhartha Sankar Ray, had been in force only in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation areas, though only on papers.

But that the state government was serious in its move was clear when it followed up the order with a notification on February 27 and Home Secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray instructed police to enforce the Act. The Director General of Police and the Police Commissioner were also asked to take action against those failing to clean up the walls they had already 'defaced' by putting up poll graffitis.

But considering the implications of the Act, sought to be implemented in a state where wall writing had been the traditional mode of campaign for all political parties, the suo moto action of the government raised a few eyebrows.

A day after the proclamation, Mr Biswas wrote to the EC seeking a National Guideline on the mode of electioneering. ''There should be a comprehensive national policy on campaigning in the absence of wall graffitis, which should be obeyed by all in every state,'' he said. This left a question mark as to whether the CPI(M), being the livewire of the ruling Front, was made aware of the government move beforehand and the implications of such a sweeping order were discussed at the party level, which is a normal practice, before the government went ahead with its move.

The CPI(M) cadres had already filled up many of the walls in the city and districts to add steam to the campaign for Front nominees.

But while maintaining a diplomatic silence on the state order, Mr. Biswas categorically said the EC was the authority of elections and related matters, and the party would abide by whatever it said.

In reply to a question, he said he did not have any idea as to why the government had issued the order, nor would he ask anybody to know the reason. '' I do not know why, nor do I want to know. I do not want to speak with anybody either...it is a matter of the EC,'' he said.

Mr Biswas argued that the EC was the sole authority for election-related issues and no question should arise that the party was violating any order on wall graffiti. ''Such questions would arise only when the Model Code of Conduct comes into force with the announcement of election dates,'' he added.

Meanwhile, taking cue from the CPI(M),the Congress refused to abide by the government order and said the party would carry on with its campaign through wall writing till the EC intervened. ''If the CPI(M), being a ruling party, can flout the government order, what prevents us from writing on walls,'' PCC working president Pradip Bhattacharjee said.

Mr Bhattacharjee also wanted the EC to issue a directive on the issue.

While the Trinamool Congress has already declined to obey the Act, the BJP is the only party to declare a stand against wall writings.


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