Finance Minister Arun Jatiley today targeted the Mamata Banerjee government over the Election Commission ordering the cutting short of campaigning in Bengal for the final phase of the national elections by a day and said it is a "classic case of breakdown of the constitutional machinery". For the first time in India's electoral history, the election panel restricted campaigning after violence at the roadshow of BJP chief Amit Shah in Kolkata on Tuesday.
"A free campaign is not possible and therefore the campaign has to be cut short," Mr Jaitley tweeted.
He added that the election panel, which is a constitutional authority, has "effectively held Bengal to be a state in Anarchy."
A constitutional authority, the Election Commission of India, has effectively held Bengal to be a state in Anarchy. Repeatedly escalating violence, state supported Vandals, a partisan police and home department are the illustrations the ECI has given.- Chowkidar Arun Jaitley (@arunjaitley) May 15, 2019
On Wednesday evening, the Election Commission used Article 324 of the Constitution -- which gives it the powers of "superintendence, direction and control of elections" -- for ending the election campaign in Bengal. So far, it has been used for cancellation or postponement of election or penalising individual candidates.
"This would be the first time when the Election Commission has invoked Article 324 in this manner but it may not be the last in cases of repetition of lawlessness and violence which vitiate the conduct of polls in a peaceful and orderly manner," Deputy Election Commissioner Chandra Bhushan Kumar said.
The Election Commission directive means that campaigning in the final nine constituencies of Bengal will end nearly a day ahead of the actual 5 pm deadline on Friday.
Mamata Banerjee this evening called the Election Commission's decision "unethical, unconstitutional, undemocratic and biased", and added, "Tomorrow, Modi has two meetings in Bengal. When he finishes, the campaigning also ends... Instead of punishing Amit Shah, the Election Commission has given a gift to the BJP".
On Tuesday evening, violence erupted while a roadshow of BJP chief Amit Shah was passing by Kolkata's Vidyasagar College. Both the parties have accused each other of sparking the clashes, and Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien has approached the Election Commission with videos that allegedly show BJP workers vandalising Vidyasagar's statue.
Amit Shah said Trinamool activists attacked his roadshow and it was Mamata Banerjee who had the Vidyasagar bust broken as part of a "conspiracy" to blame the BJP ahead of the last round of voting for the national election. Trinamool leader Derek O'Brien lobbed the allegation right back and called the BJP chief "Dhokabaaz" and "pukeworthy". He also complained to the Election Commission, submitted what he called video proof that the BJP was behind the vandalism.