Trinamool’s Anubrata courts controversy attracts EC’s ire

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Kolkata, April 17 (IANS) His penchant for courting controversy was on display yet again on Sunday as Trinamool Congress strongman Anubrata Mondal found himself at the wrong end of the Election Commission (EC) after having cast his vote sporting his party symbol on his dress and also defying the panel’s statutory orders.

With the second phase of the West Bengal assembly polls underway in 56 constituencies spread across seven districts, many eyes were on the Trinamool’s Birbhum district president who has been put under constant surveillance by the EC with central security forces and a local magistrate marking his moves.

Known for his caustic remarks and vitriolic speeches, Mondal ended the day with two first information reports (FIRs) against him — one for casting his vote sporting the party symbol on his kurta, and the other for defying the EC’s order refraining him from moving beyond his constituency Bolpur.

West Bengal Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta informed about the two FIRs filed against Mondal.

Seen riding pillion on a motorbike during polling, Mondal appeared unperturbed by the EC’s clampdown and put the onus on the booth presiding officer for not informing about his mistake.

“All my kurtas have this party symbol attached, I did not notice it. But the presiding officer could have stopped me. He could have reminded me,” said Mondal, asserting he wasn’t sorry for the mistake.

Earlier in the afternoon, Mondal had denied he went inside the booth sporting the Trinamool’s symbol and even accused media channels of running “old footage”.

“I had taken off the symbol before entering the booth,” he said.

But later in the evening, he admitted it was a mistake on his part.

The opposition parties were prompt to approach the EC against Mondal continuously daring to undermine the poll panel.

“The Left Front has lodged a complaint with the EC. How can he be allowed to enter the booth sporting party symbol? We have sought action in this matter,” said Forward Bloc leader Naren Chatterjee.

Congress leader and former union minister Jairam Ramesh also demanded the EC to act against Mondal.

While there were reports of sporadic violence from across Birbhum, Mondal asserted that the polling process was peaceful and questioned the efficacy of the legal action initiated against him by the poll panel.

“The poll has been peaceful, there was no violence, then why these FIRs against me? Have I indulged in fighting that they have initiated legal action against me? I have also not challenged the EC,” he said.

“The opposition has been blaming the Trinamool but is it my fault that they could not arrange for polling agents? They have made a habit of blaming the Trinamool for everything,” said Mondal.

Asked if the “peaceful votes” in the district — often in the news for pre-poll violence — was because of him being kept under surveillance, Mondal retorted: “I am not under any surveillance. No one has the ability to put me under surveillance.”

Mondal, who attained notoriety in 2013 for asking his men to “bomb the police”, days before Sunday’s voting boasted of “vanishing” opposition parties’ polling agents on the polling day.

Besides being show-caused for his controversial remarks against opposition leaders by the EC, the surveillance was ordered in the wake of demand by opposition parties and the civil society members for his arrest to create an atmosphere conducive for holding free and fair polls.

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