West Bengal Elections : Election Commission acts against SP, DM for Nandigram incident
By Ritika Chopra
Acting on its observers’ recommendation, the Election Commission (EC) on Sunday suspended a police officer for the security lapse that led to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s injury during her election campaign in Nandigram this week.
The Commission also suspended the East Midnapore Superintendent of Police (SP), Pravin Prakash, and transferred District Magistrate Vibhu Goyal to a non-election post.
The EC has ordered that charges should be framed against Vivek Sahay, IPS, Director Security, for failing to discharge his duty of protecting a Z+ protectee, and against Prakash for “major failure of bandobast”.
While the state Chief Secretary has been authorised to find Sahay’s replacement, IPS officer Sunil Kumar of the 2009 batch will replace Prakash. Smita Pandey (IAS 2005) will be the new DM of East Midnapore.
“A Committee of Chief Secretary and DGP shall identify within next three days the other proximate security personnel below Director Security,who failed in their duties to prevent the incident and protect the Z+ protectee VVIP and take suitable action for their failure,” the EC said in a press release.
The decisions were announced on Sunday evening after Election Commissioners Sushil Chandra and Rajiv Kumar held a meeting to discuss the joint report received from Special Police Observer Vivek Dube and General Observer Ajay Nayak, and the inputs submitted by the Chief Secretary.
As first reported by The Sunday Express on March 14, the EC’s Observers, in their report, said there were no “significant pointers to suggest that there was any pre-mediated or planned attack” on Mamata Banerjee’s convoy on Wednesday.
They also pointed out that no permission had been obtained for the election campaign at Birulia Bazaar, Gholpukhuria, where the incident took place on March 10. Hence, there was no official video recording of the campaign.
The report observed that the “lack of coordination between security arrangements made by the SP and DM and the Police Headquarters”, and “complete disregard” for security protocol led to the incident in which the Chief Minister was injured.
The Observers recommended strict action against Sahay: “The flippant attitude towards the security of the Honourable CM exhibited by Vivek Sahay, Director Security, is evident by the fact that he was sitting in the bullet-proof car meant for the VVIP. It is nobody’s case that the Honourable CM is known to prefer using normal vehicle rather than the BP vehicle which is sine qua non for the protection of the VVIP. Even if the VVIPs choose to flout the prescribed security norms/protocols as they seem to consider these to be a hindrance in connecting with their adoring masses, it is incumbent upon the security detail to prevail in such matters lest it should lead to tragic consequences,” the Observers said in their report.
With respect to the security of star campaigners, the Observers suggested that the EC should advise them to stick to the security protocol. Accepting this recommendation, the EC has decided to issue instructions separately to all Chief Electoral Officers of poll-bound states to remind political parties that their star campaigners would have to strictly comply with the security protocol as per the category of protection.
The Observers also took a dim view of the overall security arrangement for Mamata’s tour, for which the DM and SP of East Midnapore were responsible.
“The district police is required to provide strong route-bandobast for the travel of the VVIP. In fact, when it was expected that the Honorable CM might visit a temple situated close to the scene of the incident and a separate contingent of police officers and men were deployed at the temple, it begs the question as to why a strong route-bandobast was not provided to stop the crowd from coming close to the Honourable CM’s vehicle. Obviously, the bandobast arrangements were slack and it led to the unsavory incident,” the report said.
The poll panel had sought these reports after Mamata was injured on March 10 during her campaign in Nandigram, from where she had filed her nomination for the Assembly election. She had alleged that she was targeted by a group of “four or five people” who had pushed her outside a temple where she had stopped to offer prayers. She was admitted to hospital with bone injuries in her left ankle and foot, and mild injuries in her right shoulder, forearm, and neck. The Trinamool Congress has alleged that she was attacked, and called it a “premeditated” attempt on her life and “part of a deep-rooted conspiracy”.
The BJP said this was “tactics to gain sympathy”. Several Opposition leaders condemned the “attack”, and state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury called it “siyasi pakhand (political hypocrisy)”.
A BJP delegation led by Union Minister Piyush Goyal and party general secretary Bhupender Yadav had met EC officials on Friday and demanded an independent inquiry.