The Election Commission of India has dismissed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s allegations that it unfairly followed the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre’s orders while transferring four police officials, PTI reported on Sunday.
On Friday night, the Election Commission had removed Anuj Sharma as Kolkata police commissioner and replaced him with Rajesh Kumar, who was the additional director general of police, Pollution Control Board. The panel had also appointed Natarajan Ramesh Babu as the commissioner of Bidhannagar Police, replacing Gyanwant Singh. The Bharatiya Janata Party had lodged a complaint with the Election Commission against Singh for alleged police interference when Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee’s wife was allegedly found carrying gold at the Kolkata airport. Two others – Avannu Ravindranath and Srihari Pandey – were appointed superintendents of police of Birbhum and Diamond Harbour.
The next day, Banerjee wrote to the Election Commission, describing the decision as unfortunate, “highly arbitrary, motivated and biased”, and demanded that the Election Commission reconsider the transfer order.
The Election Commission, in its response, said it was fully within its rights to transfer officials when the Model Code of Conduct is in place. It added that it will not respond to the allegation to prove its image.
“It is the ECI and the governments of states/UTs who are jointly responsible to electors of the largest democracy and are bound to act strictly in the letter and spirit of the respective roles set forth by the founding fathers of the Constitution,” a letter written by a deputy election commissioner to Banerjee said.
“It is unfortunate that an exercise carried out by ECI only for the duration of the Model Code of Conduct is being labelled as arbitrary, motivated at the behest of ruling party at the Centre,” the letter said. “It would not be correct and dignified to respond to such averments to prove/burnish its credentials.”
The transfer of the officials was “based on the cumulative feedback from the DEC (deputy election commissioner) who oversees electoral process in West Bengal and Special Police Observer”, the letter said, adding that the new officers it had posted were of similar seniority of those who were transferred and from the West Bengal cadre.
“It is understood that the Government of West Bengal has already operationalised the decision of ECI in respect of transfers,” the letter added. “This action of the Government of West Bengal amply demonstrates the willingness of the state administration to conduct free, fair, credible and ethical elections in West Bengal and ECI is appreciative of this irrespective of the factually incorrect innuendoes.”