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EC asks Bengal govt to provide security to Nandigram RO
Kolkata, May 4, 2021
Making it clear that the Returning Officer's (RO) decision regarding recounting of votes is final, the Election Commission of India has asked the West Bengal government to provide adequate security to the RO of Nandigram, where BJPs Suvendu Adhikari pulled off a win over Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee by a slim margin of 1,956 votes.
The state government, on its part, has informed the poll panel that it has complied with the latter's direction.
The Nandigram controversy came to the fore after Banerjee claimed on Monday that the RO of the Assembly constituency in East Medinipur district had turned down Trinamool's demand for recounting of votes after Adhikari was declared the winner because his life was "under threat".
Nandigram witnessed a cliff-hanger between Banerjee and her one-time aide Adhikari before the latter was declared the winner by a slender margin of 1,956 votes following several twists and turns.
The Commission in its note said, "The Returning Officer (RO) of an Assembly constituency performs statutory functions under the RP Act, 1951, in quasi-judicial capacity independently. As far as the media reports on ‘recount' concerning Nandigram is concerned, on such an application being made, the RO shall decide the matter and may allow the application in whole or in part or may reject it in toto if it appears to him to be frivolous or unreasonable."
The poll panel also made it clear that no anomaly has been found in the counting process.
"Each counting table had one micro-observer. Their reports never indicated any impurity of the counting process on their respective tables. The RO caused the entries of votes polled by each candidate after each round to be written on the display board which could be easily seen by the counting agents.
"No doubts were raised on the results of round-wise counting. This enabled the RO to proceed uninterruptedly with the counting of votes."
The Commission added that the only remedy is to move the High Court.
On the basis of media reports on undue pressure on the RO of Nandigram, the Commission directed the Chief Secretary West Bengal to provide adequate security to him, which the state government has now provided.
The sources said the RO was provided security in person and at his home on the directions of the Election Commission amid reports that he was under pressure while performing his duty.
The state's Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) has already been directed to ensure the safe custody of all election records, including polled EVMs and VVPAT machines, video recordings, and counting records strictly in accordance with the laid down guidelines.
The CEO will also coordinate with the state government for additional security measures at such locations, if needed.