The Trinamool Congress on Saturday lodged a complaint with the Election Commission against the Bharatiya Janata Party for releasing a leaked audio clip of a telephonic conversation purportedly between West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and party leader Partha Pratim Ray, ANI reported.
The TMC called the audio clip “bogus” and said the purported conversation had been “illegally and unlawfully” recorded at the behest of the BJP, an act which it said was a “direct assault” on Banerjee and Ray’s right to privacy.
In the purported phone call, Banerjee is heard asking her party’s Sitalkuchi candidate, Ray, to hold political rallies with the bodies of four local residents who were killed in firing by security forces in Cooch Behar on April 10, according to News18.
Excerpts of the conversation were released and played by the Bharatiya Janata Party during a press conference on Friday, a day ahead of the fifth phase of the Assembly elections in West Bengal.
BJP’s IT Cell chief Amit Malviya, who headed the press briefing, claimed that the audio clip proved that Banerjee was “trying to instigate riots by asking her party leaders to take out rallies with bodies”.
“She is heard asking her party candidate to frame the case in such a way that both the superintendent of police [of Cooch Behar] and other central forces personnel can be framed,” he said at the press conference. “Is this expected from a chief minister? She is trying to instil a sense of fear just for minority votes.”
Malviya called Banerjee’s alleged attempts “a gross violation of political ethics”, and said that the BJP will approach the Election Commission to demand strict action against the chief minister.
Later, BJP President JP Nadda also shared the audio clip on Twitter, saying that the Trinamool Congress should be ashamed of themselves.“TMC signifies vulture culture of feasting on death for petty political gains,” Nadda added.
‘Bogus, illegal and unlawful’: TMC
The Trinamool Congress rejected the allegations, with Ray saying he never had any such conversation with Banerjee in the first place. “This audio clip is totally bogus,” he told reporters on Thursday, according to NDTV. “The BJP is just trying to confuse people before the fifth phase of polling.”
TMC MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy blamed Union Home Minister Amit Shah, saying he was peddling lies for political gains, while party leader Derek O’Brien said he’d rather not pay any heed to the “audio factory” of the BJP, according to News18.
In its letter to the Election Commission on Friday, the Trinamool Congress said that it was unprecedented that a chief minister’s phone had been intercepted at BJP’s behest and leaked one day before polls.
“The said conversation has been illegally and unlawfully recorded by and/or at the behest of BJP and played by the BJP in complete violation of, the Constitution of India, the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Information Technology Act, 2000, and the Indian Penal Code, 1860,” it added. “The entire exercise by BJP is an illegal act and is a direct assault on legal rights, including the Right to Privacy of Smt. Mamata Banerjee and Partha Pratim Ray.”
TMC said that it will take necessary steps against the BJP for prosecution under criminal law. However, since the said audiotape was released by the BJP in a press conference for and during the elections, the party also called upon the Election Commission “to urgently look into the matter, enquire and take necessary action against the perpetrators forthwith”.
Cooch Behar killings
On April 10, four persons were killed in Sitalkuchi after the central security forces opened fire at a polling booth during the fourth phase of voting in Sitalkuchi, following a clash with locals. In a separate incident, another person was shot dead after he was dragged outside a polling booth.
The Trinamool Congress said that the four people who were killed belonged to the party, and alleged a large conspiracy behind the attack. But the Election Commission has ruled out any such possibility, saying the security forces had no option but to open fire to save their lives and government property.
Following the violence, the Election Commission had adjourned voting at one of the polling booths in Sitalkuchi. The poll panel also banned politicians from entering Cooch Behar district till Tuesday. Additionally, it extended the silence period before the next phase of the West Bengal elections, which is scheduled to take place on April 17, from 48 hours to 72 hours. The decision effectively cut short the campaigning period by a day.
On April 16, the West Bengal Crime Investigation Department took over the inquiry into the killings.