EC tweaked booth agent norm on BJP's request: TMC
Kolkata: Claiming that the Election Commission (EC) diluted the age-old norm of deploying booth agents based on the deputation made by the BJP in an 'unconstitutional' manner without convening an all-party meet to discuss the issue — TMC on Saturday demanded immediate restoration of the old rule according to which political parties were allowed to appoint only people registered as voters in a particular Assembly segment in which an election booth was located — as the polling agent for that booth.
Last week, the EC had relaxed the deployment norm by allowing the appointment of agents from any part of an Assembly constituency.
Calling the order 'detrimental to the interest of Parliamentary democracy', TMC leader Subrata Mukherjee on Saturday said: "The EC should have convened an all-party meeting before making such an important decision. He urged leaders of other parties to raise the issue."
Earlier in the day, a TMC delegation led by MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay urged the EC to implement the old rule. The Parliamentary delegation met the state CEO (Chief Electoral Officer) and submitted a memorandum citing their demand.
Meanwhile, TMC also released an audiotape allegedly containing a conversation between BJP national vice-president Mukul Roy and another saffron party leader Shishir Bajoria. TMC alleged that in the audiotape, Roy told Bajoria that they must tell the EC for changing the deployment of booth agent rule or else their party wouldn't be able to deploy agents at several booths. TMC further alleged that Roy told Bajoria to request the EC to ensure that the voters' slips which would remain undistributed, should be returned to the Observers.
Bandyopadhyay said the new order had been made to benefit the BJP as it did not have enough number of polling agents. He pointed out that a polling agent, who was earlier a local person, could identify a voter and thus stop false voting. "The state CEO has assured us that he would forward our concern on this issue to the ECI in Delhi," Bandyopadhyay said.
"It was not a question of winning or losing an election. BJP is up to changing the election norms. Polling agents are selected from the same area as it strengthens the system of Parliamentary democracy by reducing the chances of false voting," Mukherjee added.
The TMC delegation also raised the issue of EVM malfunctioning in polling booths across Bankura, Purulia, West Midnapore and East Midnapore and accused BJP workers of entering booths at various locations and misleading voters.
TMC also drew the poll panel's attention towards 'drastic reduction' in the voting percentage of two constituencies – Kanthi Dakshin and Kanthi Uttar – within '5 minutes'.
Meanwhile, Mukherjee also responded to the release of an audio clip by the BJP. The saffron party had alleged that Mamata Banerjee had called up Trinamool turncoat Pralay Paul seeking support in Nandigram.
"I am proud that I have a leader like Mamata Banerjee who had called up a former party worker. It was a call of political courtesy. Those who have made it viral in a bid to prove that Banerjee is afraid of losing elections are living in a fool's paradise," Mukherjee said.