May 7, 2004
Prakash Karat, member, Polit Bureau of Communist Party of India (Marxist) and A.B. Bardhan, General Secretary, Communist Party of India and Dipankar Mukherjee, CPI(M) MP (Rajya Sabha) met the Election Commission today. Following is the text of the memorandum submitted to the Commission.
Dear Shri Krishnamurthi,
While we appreciate the steps being taken by the Election Commission for holding of free and fair polls in West Bengal, we wish to point out that there are some discordant steps being taken by certain Central observers deputed to the state.
The CPI(M) and the Left Front representatives in West Bengal have already submitted before the Commission on 30th April, 2004 at Kolkata complaints about the role of certain observers in two of the constituencies. Subsequently, more complaints have come in about the role of some other Central observers. We are enclosing a set of complaints received from the Left Front candidates, election agents and voters regarding such activities.
For instance, one complaint pertains to Shri I.Y.R. Krishna Rao, observer in 17-Diamond Harbour constituency, who has been asking questions why Muslims vote for the CPI(M). He also directed the arrest of certain persons.
In the Asansol Lok Sabha seat, the observer Ms. Ratnamala Rawal, according to the written complaints of voters in certain polling stations, has been going around asking voters why they vote for the CPI(M) and the Left Front years together? Whether this is because the CPI(M) pays money or under duress?
In Vishnupur SC constituency, the observer Shri K.C. Varma has been asking similar questions about why they vote for the CPI(M), or, whether they are terrorised etc.
In Srirampur Lok Sabha constituency, the observer Shri Rakesh Garg visited the Jangipara police station and asked for local crime records and pressurised the officer on duty to issue an arrest warrant for a case recorded.
In Basirhat Lok Sabha constituency, the observer Shri A.K. Tandon threatened the staging of a flag-march in certain villages in Bhangar after casting aspersions on the high level of polling witnessed in the area in the earlier elections.
We are aware that the Election Commission deputes Central observers in all Lok Sabha constituencies for the purpose of observing whether election procedures are being followed and free and fair polls are being conducted. But, surely, observers cannot pressurise voters about their voting preferences or cast aspersions on their voting intentions.
As observers, they are expected to inform the district administration about the breach, or, violation of norms and procedures. They can recommend, or, request steps to be taken by the administration, but cannot direct police officers, or, other officials to arrest or take action. They can report to the Commission any lapses.
The instances cited are of observers exceeding their brief or acting in a partisan fashion. The complaints listed pertain to actions of only certain Central observers and we are sure this is not a pattern which is followed by all observers. We urge the Election Commission to take immediate remedial action to stop any unwarranted acts by the observers concerned.
A.B. Bardhan, General Secretary, Communist Party of India
Prakash Karat, Member, Polit Bureau, Communist Party of India (Marxist)