Mamata has claimed that he did not order a recount of votes as he feared for his life
The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Tuesday asked the West Bengal government to extend medical support and counselling to the Returning Officer (RO) of the Nandigram Assembly constituency as well as monitor the security protection provided to him in view of reported pressure being exerted on him.
The ECI’s letter to the State Chief Secretary came two days after the election results were announced on Sunday. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress swept the polls, but she lost her own contest in Nandigram to the BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari. Ms. Banerjee claimed that RO Kishore Kumar Biswas did not order a recount of votes as he feared for his life.
On Monday, the State government informed the ECI that security had been provided to the RO and his home on the directions of the commission. The ECI asked the Chief Secretary to keep a strict watch and monitor the protection given to the RO on a regular basis. It directed that the officer be “extended appropriate medical support/counselling”. It asked the Chief Secretary and the Chief Electoral Officer to monitor the arrangements for the RO personally and send a report by 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
The ECI letter said that any pressure or perception of it would have serious implications on the entire election machinery. The CEO had been asked to ensure the safe custody of all election records, including the EVMs, VVPATs, video recordings, counting records etc., in accordance with guidelines.
The only legal remedy
In a statement on Tuesday, the Commission said the election agent of a “particular candidate” had asked for a recount, which was rejected by the RO via a speaking order on the basis of material facts before him as per the rules. The only legal remedy in such a case was to file an election petition before the High Court.
Taking into account the RO’s order and the report of the general observer, the ECI said each counting table had one micro observer present on Sunday. “Their reports never indicated any impurity of counting process on their respective table…No doubt was raised on the result of round-wise counting,” it noted.
A copy of the results of each round of counting was given to the counting agents, who then signed the result sheet after every round, it stated.
“Election related officers on ground perform in extremely competitive political environment diligently with full transparency and fairness and therefore attribution of any motive in such cases is not desirable,” it added.