EC issues show-cause notice to Mamata Banerjee

New Delhi: With two days left for the second phase of polling in the West Bengal assembly polls, the Election Commission on Thursday issued a show-cause notice to chief minister Mamata Banerjee for her promise to create a separate district of Asansol at an election rally.

“It has been brought to our notice that she made a promise of creating a new Asansol district for which the show-cause notice has been issued,” chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi said at a press conference in Kolkata. He added that the further course of action will be decided after receiving a reply from Banerjee.

Making fresh promises are barred under the model code of conduct in election-bound states. Banerjee had made the promise at an election rally in Asansol on 8 April.

Banerjee, who also heads the Trinamool Congress (TMC), responded defiantly at an election meeting in Birbhum district. “I heard the Election Commission has show-caused me. What I have said, I will say it again; I will say it thousand times. I will say it a lakh times. Do whatever you like. If anyone spread canards against me, I will seek answers,” she said.

TMC spokesman Derek O’Brien alleged political bias behind the move. “How ludicrous! The decision to make Asansol, Kalimpong, Basirhat, Sunderbans and Jhargram into different districts was taken up by the West Bengal cabinet in December 2015, four months ago. It was also discussed in the assembly. This information is in the public domain and is common knowledge,” said O’Brien.

“The people who registered the complaint don’t have their facts right. They have little or no knowledge of Bengal. They speak without knowing. We are not surprised… The political bias is obvious,” he said, adding that a lot of this is “cooked up” by bureaucrats in New Delhi.

With the first phase of polling over, 56 constituencies in north Bengal will go to the polls on 17 April. The first phase, which was spread over two days, recorded a high voter turnout. While 82.63% voted in 18 constituencies on 4 April, 79.51% voted in another 31 constituencies on 11 April.