Kolkata: The Election Commission of India (ECI) took exception to an event of state police blocking free media movement within Asansol Lok Sabha constituency where bypolls are underway on Tuesday.
On receiving the complaints on this count from the mediapersons, the office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), West Bengal intervened and the state police withdrew the restrictions on media movement but after keeping a group of mediapersons stranded at Barabani under Asansol Lok Sabha for around 40 minutes.
On Tuesday morning after the BJP candidate from Asansol, Agnimitra Paul reached a particular polling booth at Barabani, tension and clashes broke out between the Trinamool Congress and BJP supporters. Paul’s vehicle was vandalised and her bodyguard injured. Local Trinamool activists alleged that Paul came to the polling booth accompanied by notorious anti-social elements.
As Paul left for the booth, the mediapersons, with valid election coverage passes issued by ECI, followed her vehicle.
But when they reached a crossing at Barabani, Paul and the mediapersons were stopped by a huge police contingent and a police officer told them that they would not be allowed to move forward following an official order. However, the said police officer could not specify whether the order was from ECI or the district magistrate or any senior police officer. The police officer also was unable to show any copy of the purported order.
Paul engaged into a heated argument with the police officer. The BJP candidate alleged the mediapersons were restricted as they were telecasting the election malpractices by the state’s ruling party.
Meanwhile, the office of the CEO, West Bengal was contacted by media houses with queries on whether there was any order from ECI for restricting media offices. The CEO, West Bengal’s office clearly said that there was no such order from the ECI and they immediately contacted their observers and officials deputed by ECI for Asansol. Minutes after the ECI intervened, another senior police official came to spot, withdrew the police contingent deputed there and told the mediapersons that they can move around freely with their coverage assignments. But by then around 40 minutes had passed that the mediapersons were kept stranded.
The Trinamool Congress state general secretary and the party spokesman, Kunal Ghosh tried to downplay the incident claiming that the entire incident took place due to some misunderstanding.
Till 11 a.m., polling was comparatively lower for both Asansol Lok Sabha and Ballygunge Assembly. While the polling percentage was 27 for Asansol the figure was 16 for Ballygunge.