Thursday, February 17, 2011

EC poser on CPM hill poll doubt

Feb. 16:

The Election Commission team touring north Bengal today appeared to question the CPM's claim that the situation in the hills was not conducive to holding elections.

"When everybody is saying elections should be held, what is the basis of thinking that it cannot be held?" Sudhir Kumar Rakesh, the leader of the poll panel's observer team, told journalists in Darjeeling.

The Left Front had complained to the poll panel that the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha was "terrorising the people", adding that such tactics posed "a real challenge to holding free and fair elections in the hills". Today, municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya said the situation in the hills "is not conducive to holding polls". The CPM had complained the Morcha was not allowing it to campaign in the hills.

Asked about the CPM's complaint, Rakesh said: "Some people said they had problems (about holding election in the hills) but none said the polls should not be held."

Social worker Udaymani Pradhan, who led a group of Darjeeling residents who met the team, said: "The observers have told us that they are convinced elections can be held here."

Rakesh said that during the trip to north Bengal, the team "never got the feeling" that the polls could not be held. "The situation, as we have seen, is peaceful but lacks normality," he added. Rakesh said a Morcha delegation had "met us… and expressed eagerness to see that free and fair polls are held in the hills".

The team, which split into three groups and toured Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong, interacted with the local people and sought their opinion on the elections. "The majority of the people said elections could be held peacefully. But there were a few from Monteviot and Panighatta (in Kurseong) who said democracy had to be first restored before holding elections," a source said.

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