Bengal poll panel interim chief says no pre-conceived notion

Kolkata, Oct 7 (IANS) West Bengal’s Transport Secretary Alapan Bandhyopadhyay, who on Wednesday assumed charged as the interim state election commissioner, affirmed that he has taken over his new assignment sans “any pre-conceived notion”.

The opposition parties criticised Bandopadhyay’s appointment as “unconstitutional”, arguing that a serving IAS officer was in no position to do justice to the high constitutional post as he was not in a position to go against the wishes of the government which was his superior authority.

Fielding questions on his appointment, Bandyopadhyay said: “I have come here on the orders of the state government following the vacancy created by the sudden resignation of S.R. Upadhyay. I will take charge in accordance with the order. I know nothing about my new role. I have not come with any pre-conceived notions.”

Upadhyay put in his papers allegedly succumbing under pressure from political parties following rampant violence and irregularities in the October 3 local body polls.

On the issue of repoll and counting of votes, Bandyopadhyay said he will first speak with the officials and look into the reports of the district magistrates.

“I’ll have to go through the papers first and look into the reports of the district magistrates and returning officers. I have just arrived here and it is not possible for me to make any comments before holding discussions with the officials,” he said.

He declined to comment on the controversy surrounding his appointment.

“I have been appointed as the temporary election commissioner in a given state of evolved circumstances. My job is to finish the task initiated by my predecessor.

“Greater questions I am not immediately engaged with,” he said.

Bandhyopadhyay said he should not be “dragged” into the debate surrounding his appointment.

“The government of West Bengal, invoking a particular legal provision, has appointed me as the temporary election commissioner. I have complied with that order and the government will decide whether I will continue as transport secretary or not. I will comply with that order.

“Since when has lawful compliance of a lawful order of a lawfully constituted government been an offence? I have been complying with a lawful order of a lawful process.”

“I don’t think you should drag me into that process… what have I done,” posed Bandhyopadhyay.

Bandhyopadhyay, a former journalist, however, announced that there would be no repoll on Thursday.

But he kept speculation rife of a possible repoll by declining to comment on the issue later on.

“All such questions are under examination. I need some more time to answer those questions,” he said in response to queries on evidence of violence during polls.

He also refused to give a straight answer on the proposed counting on October 9. “The matter is being examined.”

Bandyopadhyay was accompanying Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during her four-day trip to Bhutan when he asked to take over as SEC.

The state government forwarded Bandyopadhyaya’s name to Governor K.N. Tripathi, who approved of it and appointed the bureaucrat to the high post.

On Tuesday, Upadhyay went to Raj Bhavan and submitted his resignation.

His decision came a day after he announced that the vote count for the three civic bodies — Municipal Corporations of Bidhannagar, Asansol and part of Howrah — that was on Sunday put on hold following mounting protests over allegations of violence and rampant malpractices, will be held on October 9.

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