The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Trinamool Congress released recordings of alleged phone calls of leaders from the opposing parties on Saturday, the first day of elections in West Bengal, reported NDTV. The authenticity of the tapes cannot be verified.
Senior BJP leaders Kailash Vijayvargiya and Shishir Bajoria played an audio clip to the media in which a person they claim is TMC chief Mamata Banerjee can be heard talking to Proloy Pal, a follower of her former close aide Suvendu Adhikari, who had joined the BJP ahead of the polls.
In the alleged phone call, Banerjee can be heard requesting Pal to help the TMC in the Nandigram polls, according to The Hindu. “You are young person and do a lot of work, I know... Please help us out this time,” Banerjee can be heard saying. Pal, however, declined to help.
When Pal alleges that he was harassed by the TMC, the chief minister says that his “local leader” did not allow her to enter Nandigram. “Earlier, I was also not involved but today I am taking a stock of everything that is why this call,” she can be heard saying. Banerjee is purportedly referring to Adhikari as the “local leader” against whom she is contesting for the Nandigram seat.
Adhikari said the conversation was a reflection of the TMC’s political bankruptcy.
The TMC has not denied that the person heard in the call is Banerjee. Senior Trinamool Congress leader Subrata Mukherjee said at a press conference that there was nothing wrong with the chief minister speaking to a former party worker.
TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh also spoke on similar lines, saying that it was a “courtesy phone call”. He said it was unfortunate that the call was made public.
The ruling party in the state also hit back at the BJP, releasing a conversation allegedly between BJP leader Mukul Roy and Sishir Bajoria. In the alleged conversation, Roy is heard telling Bajoria that to include a demand that the polling agent in a polling booth should not necessarily be a resident of that area. Roy is also heard telling Bajoria that they would have to impress on the Election Commission on the matter.
The conversation was allegedly about the BJP leaders discussing that if the polling agent had to be from the same booth, the BJP would find out the agents on all seats. The Election Commission had passed an order last week allowing Bengal voters to be polling agents anywhere in the state.
Ghosh, who released the alleged audio clip, said that the recording was a reflection of political conspiracy behind influencing the poll body. Banerjee has frequently alleged that the Election Commission was working on the BJP’s behest.
West Bengal recorded an approximate voter turnout of 79.79% on Saturday in the first phase of the Assembly elections on Saturday. The polling follows days of high-decibel campaigning that saw defections, violence and bitter exchanges between the contesting parties.