West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's comments about the Election Commission at a rally in Bankura on Tuesday has brought a prompt response from the poll body, which said her statements seeking meetings are "belittling" it.
The exchange marked a new low in the ongoing rancour between the party and poll body, which started after the replacement of the state police chief by the Commission earlier this month.
In the unusually sharp letter, Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain wrote: "Notwithstanding the above meetings in Kolkata and in Delhi, if it is stated by honourable CM that the commission should meet political parties, it is only an attempt to belittle the institution of commission with repeated innuendos and averments".
The Commission, Mr Jain wrote, "maintains the position that they would not like to keep on being put in the dock for alleged proximity to any political entity etc. However, if CM persists in creating and attempting to perpetuate this myth for reasons best known to her, it is singularly unfortunate, and it is only for CM to adjudge as to why she is doing so."
Since the removal of the police chief, the Trinamool has made no secret of its reservations about the Commission. At the rally on Tuesday, Ms Banerjee did not mince words.
"I am asking with respect to the Election Commission. Who is running the Election Commission? Amit Shah, are you running it? We want a free and fair election but who is Amit Shah? Who is he to guide the Election Commission? He is interfering in the work of the Election Commission... And this is working against us. My security in-charge has also been removed. What do they want? Do they want to kill me?" she had said.
The Trinamool Congress has been breathing fire since the Chief Minister got injured in Nandigram on Wednesday last week. Its reactions had grown sharper with the Commission's refusal to accept the party's claim that it was the result on an attempt on her life, saying there was no evidence.
The Chief Minister had made it a point to hit the campaign trail in a wheelchair snice. At every rally, she has been speaking of her injuries and asserting that though her wounds are painful, they would not stop her.
"I have been injured in the head many times. I have been injured in the hips many times. I have overcome all those injuries. If I give in to my pain and lie down then BJP will cause pain for the people. I feel people's pain is more important than my pain," she said in Bankura on Tuesday.
In the letter, Mr Jain indicated that they have seen the media reports of the rally, where she has raised "some of these issues", mentioned earlier in a letter to the Commission, sent on March 14.
"In the absence of an authorised text" of the rally speech, they were responding to the Chief Minister's letter, he wrote, enclosing a copy of the report after which they had suspended Ms Banerjee's security in-charge Vivek Sahay.
The Commission said the Chief Minister had met with an accident and held Mr Sahay responsible for the violation of her Z-Plus security protocol. Mamata Banerjee's bullet-proof car was occupied by the security in-charge, the Commission had said.
The report it enclosed also mentioned the lack of prompt response from her driver and her security personnel when her vehicle was surrounded by a crowd.