In a first, EC orders curtailment of campaign in Bengal, removes 2 top officials

West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee in a protest rally against the clashes that broke out yesterday during BJP President Amit Shah's election roadshow for Lok Sabha polls, in Kolkata, Wednesday, May 15, 2019

New Delhi: In an unprecedented step, the Election Commission on Wednesday ordered end to poll campaign from 10 p.m. on Thursday in West Bengals remaining 9 Lok Sabha constituencies which go to the polls on May 19, cutting it short by a day in view of the widespread violence witnessed in the state.

The Election Commission (EC) also relieved with immediate effect West Bengal's Principal Secretary (Home) Atri Bhattacharya for "having interfered in the process of conducting elections."

Rajeev Kumar, ADG CID, was also relieved from his post and attached to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi, with orders to report on duty at 10 a.m. on Thursday.

The EC invoked, for the first time, Article 324 of the Constitution, which gives the poll panel special powers to control and give directions for holding elections.

"There will be no election campaign in the 9 Parliamentary constituencies of West Bengal from 10 p.m. tomorrow till the conclusion of polls," an EC official said at a press conference here.

The campaigning would have normally ended at 5 p.m. on Friday, like at the 50 other seats across six states and one Union Territory which go to the polls in the final phase on May 19.

The decisions have been "taken as an action on violence in West Bengal on Tuesday," the EC official said.

"The Election Commission is deeply anguished over the vandalisation of Vidyasagar's statue," the official added.

The decision comes a day after widespread violence was witnessed in Kolkata during a roadshow conducted by BJP President Amit Shah.

The constituencies -- Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jaynagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata (South) and Kolkata (North) -- are going to the polls in the seventh and last phase of Lok Sabha elections on May 19.

"This is probably the first time that the EC has invoked Article 324 in this manner, but it may not be the last in case of repetition of lawlessness and violence which vitiate the conduct of polls in a peaceful manner," the official said.

The EC also said that the Chief Secretary of the state will look after the charge of the Principal Secretary (Home).

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