New Delhi, Apr 3 (UNI) Barely a fortnight to go for the first phase of Assembly election in West Bengal, a high-level delegation of the Left parties led by Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Prakash Karat today met the Election Commission to complain about what it termed as the EC's efforts to undermine the democratic exercise in the state.
The delegation comprising the representatives of CPI, CPI(M) and RSP, during a 50-minute detailed discussion invited the EC's attention to deploy an exclusive central para military force in all polling booths, deletion of a large number of voters from the EC list, the biased role of certain observers and ban on graffiti, posters and banners in the state.
''The steps taken by the EC are not conducive to cheap modes of campaigning. We consider this contrary to the aim of widening democratic participation,'' Mr Karat told a news conference after meeting Chief Election Commissioner B B Tandon and the other two Election Commissioners.
Senior CPI (M) leader Nilotpal Basu, CPI National Secretary D Raja and RSP Secretary Abani Roy were the other members of the Left delegation, which submitted a 5-page memorandum to the Commission.
''The meeting was satisfactory,'' Mr Karat told UNI.
He dismissed a suggestion that the CPI (M) considered the EC as its ''enemy''. ''Who says so? We have just put forward our complaints and this is the right of any political party in a democratic system,'' he said adding the Trinamool Congress had filed a huge number of complaints with the EC.
He said the EC had discriminated against West Bengal in the ban on graffiti while allowing its use in the rural areas of Tamil Nadu. A local law (West Bengal Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, 1976) applicable only to Kolkata has been extended to the whole of West Bengal to impose the ban, he added.
The CPI(M) leader also blamed the EC for encouraging ''big spending'' in advertisements in television channels and newspapers by banning cheap modes of campaigning. The Left parties slammed the EC's decision to allow only the central para military forces in polling booths in West Bengal instead of the state police, saying the voters would find it difficult to communicate with personnel who do not understand their language.
''We have pointed out that it requires coordination between the state police and central para military forces for smooth operation of polling booths,'' said Mr Karat.
The Left parties also criticised the role of EC observers in West Bengal and even submitted a compact disc that shows observer R N Dash, who is in charge of Burdwan district, moving with a Trinamool MLA and a former Congress MLA.
Another EC observer to come under the Left fire is Mr Deepak Prasad, who is in charge of Medinipur East district. The Left parties have told the EC that he has ordered stoppage of all development work under Panchayati Raj institutions in the district.
In the name of eliminating Bangladeshi refugees from the voters' list, the EC was indulging in widespread deletion of names, Mr Karat said alleging that even the EC had sent notices inquiring about the identities of two MPs.
One such MP, Alakesh Das from Nabdwip constituency, has been dubbed a Bangladeshi, he said. Mr Prasanta Pradhan, who represents the Contai constituency, has also been served with a showcause notice by the EC while the name of a former MP from Contai, Sudhir Giri, has been deleted, he added.
The names of the entire family members of a district CPI (M) secretary has been struck off from the voters' list, Mr Karat said.
The Left parties have also sought changes in the EC guidelines that allow an observer to stop counting in case of booth capturing or rigging. ''We have told the EC that an observer can recommend countermanding only on the day of polling and not on the day of counting because it can be subjectively interpreted,'' said Mr Karat.