The beginning of polling in West Bengal has set off a new blame-game between the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the BJP, with either releasing leaked video clips to target senior leaders of the opponent party.
The BJP triggered the audio war on Saturday by releasing a clip where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is purportedly heard urging Proloy Pal, a BJP leader from Nandigram, to rejoin TMC and help her win the seat.
In a quick retort, the TMC released another audio tape in which national vice president of BJP, Mukul Roy, is purportedly heard telling industrialist and party leader Shishir Bajoria on the party’s requirements that need to be raised with the Election Commission, including a request to pass administrative orders permitting booth agents to be picked from anywhere in the state.
The events unfolded even as the state voted for the first phase of elections, in 30 assembly constituencies of its five districts.
Nandigram is a high-profile seat this year as it will see a direct contest between Mamata and her former lieutenant Suvendu Adhikari, whose family wields considerable influence over the two Medinipurs. It will go to polls during the second phase on April 1.
BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya led a delegation to meet the state’s chief electoral officer and handed over the tape, and claimed that Banerjee was misusing her official position to influence the outcome of the bitterly contested assembly poll.
The TMC questioned the genuineness of the audio tape, but asserted that since Pal was a former TMC leader who switched over to the BJP, there was nothing wrong with Banerjee trying to woo him back.
Hours later, the TMC released to the media an audio clip of the purported conversation between Roy and Bajoria, in which Roy is heard telling Bajoria to convince the Election Commission to allow polling agents, even from outside a given constituency, to be function at all polling stations.
Polling agents of parties, under the existent rules, are allowed only at booths in localities where they normally reside.
“See, we have to include this point while meeting the EC. We have to say that this rule that polling agents can only be deputed in their localities should be changed. The only criteria should be that the person is a citizen of the state. The BJP won’t be able to have its agents in a large number of booths otherwise,” Roy purportedly told Bajoria.
The TMC reacted angrily, with its spokesperson Kunal Ghosh insisting the audio clip had “blown the lid off” the nexus between the BJP and the EC.
Earlier in the day, Pal, who pledged his allegiance to the Adhikari family, claimed that Banerjee personally called him up and asked for help to win the Nandigram seat.
“You should help us win Nandigram. Look, I know you have some grievances, but that’s due mostly to the Adhikaris who never allowed me to get into Nandigram or East Midnapore. I will take care of everything henceforth,” Banerjee purportedly told Pal. However, he was not game.
“Didi, you called me and I am honoured. But I can’t betray the Adhikaris as they have stood by me through thick and thin,” he was heard saying in the audio clip. He later told news channels that Banerjee had requested him to return to the TMC, but he declined the proposal.
BJP’s social media head Amit Malviya shared the audio clip of the purported conversation on Twitter and said, “Massive! Mamata Banerjee calls Proloy Pal, BJP’s district Vice President in Nandigram and pleads for help! Proloy tells her that he was humiliated in TMC, and he, along with this family, cannot betray the BJP. Pishi is definitely losing Nandigram and TMC Bengal.”
“Only a candidate who has accepted defeat can speak the way Mamata Banerjee has spoken,” Vijayvargiya told journalists.
The Federal could not verify the authenticity of either of the tapes.