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EC Invokes Article 324, Cuts Short West Bengal Campaign Period For Phase 7

Kolkata Violence
Students and activists protesting against the violence at Vidyasagar College in Kolkata.

In the backdrop of violence between BJP and TMC workers that took place in Kolkata on Tuesday, the Election Commission for the first time has invoked Article 324 to put a premature end to West Bengal campaign period.

The Election Commission on Wednesday cut short the campaign period in West Bengal by a day. The decision has come in the wake of Tuesday’s violence between BJP and TMC workers in Kolkata.

EC said that it has been a “shameful fall for a once-independent constitutional body,” referring to the violence. The sharp reaction came after the poll body took unprecedented steps by invoking Article 324 of the Constitution.

Campaigning in the nine parliamentary constituencies in the state is ordered to end at 10pm on Thursday. It is a day before its scheduled deadline, that is, Friday. Polling for nine Lok Sabha seats in Bengal will take place on May 19.

EC explained its decision citing “an atmosphere of fear and hatred” and “widely prevalent fear psychosis” in polling areas. It has also transferred key officials in the Bengal government. The poll body ordered the removal of ADG (CID) in West Bengal police Rajeev Kumar. The state’s principal secretary Atri Bhattacharya stands relieved. However, according to EC, the officer “interfered in the process of conducting the elections.”

The action has come a day after Kolkata’s Vidyasagar College witnessed violence and vandalism of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s statue. On Tuesday, during a roadshow by BJP president Amit Shah, the bust was damaged. The vandals had stormed the 147-year-old institution, which was established by Vidyasagar.

Deputy Chief Election Commissioner in charge of the state Sudeep Jain addressed the media on Wednesday. “It may not be the last in cases of repetition of lawlessness and violence,” he said. The officer added that any act of disorder vitiating the conduct of polls will call for an action.

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