Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah on Monday claimed that the Election Commission’s “neutral approach” had dealt a severe blow to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s “rigging of polls”.

At a press conference in Kolkata, Shah claimed that citizens’ votes were being “strangled” in the state and democracy was not free there. He urged voters to exercise their franchise fearlessly and advised entire villages to go to cast their votes together.

“I want to tell people in Bengal that they should not be scared [while voting],” Shah said, assuring voters of security at polling booths. He said Banerjee was frustrated because the Election Commission had made strong arrangements for the polling.

Shah said Banerjee’s frustration was clear after two rounds of voting in the state. “She can see her defeat, and in that frustration, she is raising questions against the Opposition and the Election Commission,” he said.

West Bengal votes in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections in all seven phases, two of which have already taken place.

‘Won’t just try to; will remove [infiltrators]’

When a reporter was asking Shah about his claim that a BJP government would “try to remove Bangladeshi infiltrators” from West Bengal, he interrupted: “Won’t try to, we will evict [them].”

He said that the BJP was committed to giving Indian citizenship to all refugees – “religious minorities in neighbouring countries who are fleeing to save their faith and self-respect – whether it be Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Christians or Buddhists”.

Shah said the BJP will pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill once the “structure of the Rajya Sabha changes in 2020”.

The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in January but has not been tabled in the Rajya Sabha yet.

On Rahul Gandhi and Pragya Thakur

When asked about a complaint against Congress chief Rahul Gandhi in connection with his citizenship, Shah said: “There is no need of my comment on this. The returning officer has to look into this, if some independent candidate has raised concerns, and if questions have been asked, he should give a response.”

On Saturday, the returning officer in Amethi constituency of Uttar Pradesh had ordered the postponement of scrutiny of Gandhi’s nomination papers to April 22. The lawyer of an independent candidate had alleged that Gandhi had declared himself a British citizen in the certificate of incorporation of a company registered in the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, Shah defended his party’s decision to nominate Malegaon blasts accused Pragya Singh Thakur as an election candidate, claiming that the allegations against her are false. He said the real culprits in the case have evaded the law.

Thakur is the BJP’s candidate from Bhopal constituency.