The 10th Chief Election Commissioner of India (1990–96) TN Seshan was known for causing even the most villainous & monstrous political dons to go down on their knees before the law and abide by the election rules & code in letter and spirit. The political lot, particularly the bigwigs known for their lack of even an iota of scruple, were so hard hit by the electoral reforms introduced by Seshan that they were left with the option of either maintaining electoral discipline or quit politics.

It is now about 25 years since the late Seshan last strode the electoral theatre like a colossus. With the departure of the man of steel and with the passage of time, the Election Commissioner of India (ECI) gradually lost its towering status as an independent body as firmly established by Seshan, while getting virtually reduced to the position of a Central government department.

Whatever may be on paper, deeds convey the signal that the ECI could possibly submit to the diktats of the prodigious over lordship of the powers that be at the centre. If the language of a sinister Godi media, tainted with alleged TRP scam, is to be borrowed, may Bharat have the audacity to ask if the decision to have a staggering & stumbling 8-phase election in Bengal was an independent resolution of the ECI or one mainly dictated by the numero uno wing of the Central Secretariat in the South Block?

If in its wisdom the commission thought that it was just and fair to plague West Bengal for over a month with an 8-phase election, is the ECI not answerable to the people of the state for imposing a torturous, agonizing & painful poll exercise?

The ECI definitely owes an answer to the people as to why nothing insinuating, knavish, Machiavellian, surreptitious or veiled be suspected in the decision for an 8-phase election in Bengal. Could it be a case of saffron edict issued by the Delhi Czars to play an unprecedented long electoral inning in Bengal.

May it be constructed as a case of the poll body playing to the tune of the Centre to draw electoral resources, including man power in lakhs led by CMs & state BJP bigwigs from Gujarat, UP, MP and all other BJP-ruled states and practically the entire central cabinet headed by PM Modi to Bengal to swoop down on WB with mounting gusto & robustness.

Was the 8-phase poll agenda a scrupulously designed roadmap of the saffron brigade executed by the ECI to overmaster, overpower, demoralise & devastate the Mamata-led ruling TMC with the BJP poll juggernaut in full jauntiness virtually bulldozing over every inch of WB with seas of the saffron workforce, both political & professional, at every moment for more than a month.

The attempted blitz-like mission by the Delhi demigods, with full backups by the Godi media, only draws parallel with ‘Operation Overlord’ launched by the Allied Forces in June 1944 for a foothold in Europe. While General Dwight D Eisenhower led the Allied Forces to spectacular success in the Battle of Normandy, it is still a long way before the one plus poll agenda in WB ends, courtesy ECI, and the winner of the ‘Battle of West Bengal’ emerges as the victor.

Meanwhile, coming down heavily on the ECI, the Madras High Court lambasted the poll panel for its total failure to maintain Covid protocol during poll campaigns.

In the backdrop of mounting Covid deaths, the HC observed that the ECI “should be put up on murder charges…for being the most irresponsible institution.” Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy even threatened to stop the counting of assembly poll votes slated for May 2.

“Now we assure you we will stop counting if we do not find before May 2 a blueprint on how proper maintenance of Covid protocol will be maintained so that this state does not
succumb to your idiosyncrasies any further.”

It may be noted that in the case of WB the ECI has done much greater damage. The poll exercise by the ECI consuming over a month proved, at the ground factuality, to be nothing other than unnecessarily prolonging the exercise to 8-phase.

Can the ECI deny that this one month plus exercise was a blessing only for a centre’s blue-eyed party while the multitude got infected in burgeoning numbers during this one month plus period? In the fitness of things, in the footsteps of Chennai, it may be appropriate to bring the matter before the higher judiciary in WB.

Presently, the seemingly planned torturous poll journey has already cost the state to the tune of daily spike of over sixteen thousand new COVID-19 cases. While the killer virus is burgeoning across WB with accelerating momentum, courtesy ECI, the saffron brigade is leaving no stone unturned to add a communal edge to the situation with boisterous and highly communal howls centered on words like ‘Pakistan’, ‘mini Pakistan’ et al.

While the possibility of a gush of Covid infection, with the possibility of further aggravation by the outbreak of communal flare-up under the emerging volatile situation cannot be ruled out, one may justifiably fear if the polls may be placed under animated suspension till the Covid scenario ‘improves’. In such an eventuality we may see a long period of central rule in the state, serving the purpose of weakening Mamata Banerjee and her party to the delight and advantage of the saffron brigade. For Delhi, dumping Mamata in the political dustbin by any means, fair or foul, is paramount; for the BJP it is a ‘lest now or never’ battle against the iron woman of Bengal.

Further, abiding by fascist principles like slapping charges of sedition, Maoist links, urban Naxal, the war against India, disturbing ‘communal’ harmony in the state and such other draconian and anti-constitutional charges to put one behind bars may only boomerang at the national arena.

History holds testimony to the fact that totalitarian authorities steeped in megalomaniac & egomaniac arrogance, haughtiness & pride engage in hedonistic, self-indulgent & vainglorious deeds in their endeavour to garner name, fame and repute through thuggery, fakery & falsehood.  Thus they take to histrionic, melodramatic, dramaturgical & theatrical actions. Such dramatics can at the most be equated to jugglery & skulduggery like the notorious demonetisation ensuring bitter and rotten fruits.

Meanwhile, in the backdrop of acute shortage of oxygen and beds for Covid-19 patients across the country, including WB, the 8-phase election is providing all the necessary nourishment for the Covid-19 virus to proliferate in battalions, courtesy ECI and BJP-led NDA government at the centre.

Be that as it may, the WB polls are highly important not only for the state but for the whole of India with the parliamentary polls slated for another three years from now.

Talmizur Rahman

Talmizur Rahman is a Guwahati based senior journalist and commentator. He can be reached at