Kolkata: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday moved the Calcutta high court, challenging the assembly election result of the Nandigram constituency. The court will hear the petition on Friday.
Suvendu Adhikari, the once-close aide of Banerjee who switched to BJP three months before the election, clinched the victory in Nandigram by defeating her by 1,956 votes.
In her petition, Banerjee said Adhikari’s election should be declared void in accordance with Section 100 of the Representations of People Act, 1951, on the basis of commission of corrupt practices, discrepancies in the counting procedure conducted by the returning officer (RO) and discrepancies and non-compliance in Form 17 C.
“Suvendu Adhikari has indulged in several corrupt practices that have enhanced his winning chances and materially altered Ms Mamata Banerjee’s chances of success in the election,” the petition read.
Reacting to the development, BJP’s IT cell head and spokesperson Amit Malviya said, “How do you lose an election twice? First, at the hustings and then, like a sore loser, challenging people’s verdict in the court. It would be fascinating to see Mamata Banerjee suffer the humiliation of Nandigram defeat twice over.”
Adhikari’s win from the Nandigram seat was embroiled in controversy and confusion, with the Trinamool Congress (TMC) making allegations of malpractice in the counting process. The party made an official appeal for recounting, which the Election Commission (ECI) rejected.
“I accept the verdict of the people of Nandigram. I salute the people there. Nandigram was a sacrifice that was needed in the larger victory. We have won the state. But I will go to the court because votes were looted there,” Banerjee told the media on the day of counting.
A day after the results were declared, Banerjee revealed a cell phone message and had alleged that the returning officer of Nandigram did not order recounting as he feared for his life.
“I have received an SMS from someone in which the returning officer of Nandigram has written to someone that if he allows recounting then his life would be under threat. ‘I can’t order a recount. My family will be in ruin. I have a little daughter…’,” Banerjee then told the Media.
Following the directions of the ECI, the West Bengal government provided security to the RO of Nandigram.
On May 2, the day of counting, Banerjee had been trailing Adhikari since the early hours. At the end of the 10th of 17 rounds, Adhikari was ahead by 17,379 votes. The TMC supremo started narrowing the margin from the 11th round onwards. And when the counting for the 16th round ended, Banerjee led by 820 votes.
Before the votes in the final round were counted, some reports had erroneously declared Banerjee as the winner by a margin of 1,200 votes. The ECI then said there was a lapse in coordination and a technical glitch in the server. Some media reports also reported that there was an electricity outage at the counting centre in Haldia.
Counting for the 17th or the final round went on for over three hours, and at around 8 pm on May 2, Adhikari was formally declared as the winner. While Adhikari polled 1,10,764 votes, Banerjee secured 1,08,808 ballots in a closely contested race.
Though the TMC leader lost, the mandate of the people was overwhelmingly against the saffron party. An incumbent government of ten years secured 47.95% of votes and was reelected to its third term. The TMC swept the state, winning 213 of the 292 seats. The BJP’s tally was 77.
Adhikari was chosen as the leader of the opposition (LoP) of the West Bengal assembly. Since the results were announced, Banerjee and the BJP have been locked in a bitter tussle over a range of issues from post-poll violence to the sudden transfer of the Bengal chief secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay.