It was a question of when and not if. Facing the ire of Election Commission, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had to finally give in to their command of shunting 7 top officials from overseeing election procedures. She and her team battled hard to get any face saving option but the EC refused to play ball. As the drama ended, it also brought closure to an impending constitutional crisis which threatened to plague elections in Bengal.
How events unfolded
It all started on Sunday. The full panel of EC headed by Chief Election Commission Sampath listened to the complaints by opposition leaders regarding administration being hand in glove with the ruling party. EC made it very clear that they were not happy with the way sections of Bengal administration was functioning. Within a day, EC decided to remove 5 Superintendent of Police, one District Magistrate and one additional District Magistrate from poll duties. This move was vehemently opposed by mercurial didi. She alleged EC of acting in cahoots with Congress, BJP, CPIM and targeting her for being a woman. She even dared EC of going to jail if necessary and said that state will not be responsible henceforth for any problem in law and order. But the EC remain firm in their stance even contemplating suspension of polls in about 17 Loksabha constituency of Bengal. Virtually facing constitutional crisis, chief secretary of the state sent three possible replacements for each of the posts. But that “conciliatory” offer was also promptly rejected and government was given a deadline of up to 10 A.M Wednesday to finish the transfer procedure. Anticipating that her options are limited with EC reading the riot act, Mamata Banerjee in a press conference declared that state with fully comply with the orders.
Didi still defiant
Mamata may have lost the battle but she looks in no mood to lose the war. In a defiant manner, she declared that all the officials under fire from EC will be reinstated once the polls are over. She also promised that these 7 officials will be given “highest honour” and will be part of her journey for the poll season. According to didi, Election Commission has made a mistake by appointing junior officers as S.P and D.M. She said that these officials with little experience will only sign files brought to them and will not be able to make much difference in the electoral process. She placed trust on those appointed by E.C saying that they are also her people. Many believe by saying so effectively she has put a bound to the power which newly appointed officials can exert. She also hinted that they may take up this matter in the Supreme Court once elections are over.
This is not the first time and one probably not the last time that didi has put her bets on the wrong horse. The most famous instance of her whims came when she initially declined to support Pranab Mukherjee for presidency. She subsequently was forced to lend support but after much humiliation from likes of Mulayam. Even recently didi tied up with Anna Hazare to give a big push to the federal front only to realise that the veteran Gandhian is a spent force. Here also she went for a David versus Goliath war without realising that the moral compass was tilting in the opposite direction. Thankfully for TMC, the principal opponent CPIM is equally if not more guilty of trying to subvert every constitutional authority in their regime. So this incidence is likely to remain as a blip in the radar in this election. As for Election Commission, they proved again that no power can literally blackmail them to tow their line. Constitution of India will always reign supreme.