In a repeat of 2016, the office of the West Bengal Chief Electoral Officer issued an order on Sunday evening saying Anubrata Mondal, Birbhum district president of the Trinamool Congress, will be under surveillance during polling on Monday and will not have access to his mobile phone.
The CEO’s office said in an order that Mondal will be watched from 6 pm on Sunday to 7 am on Tuesday by an executive magistrate and a central armed police force staff. In addition, a videographer will record Mondal’s movement during this period.
No political leader in post-Independence Bengal has been kept under such surveillance in not one but two successive elections, EC officials told.
The district’s two Lok Sabha constituencies, Bolpur and Birbhum, will go to polls on Monday. The district is known for political killings and violence and Mondal has been accused of instigating these on different occasions.
Known for his provocative speeches, Mondal has always drawn more media attention than any other leader known to be close to chief minister Mamata Banerjee. On April 16, 2016, Mondal was kept under similar surveillance, though only for a day, when assembly elections were held in the district.
On Sunday afternoon, Bharatiya Janata Party Bengal unit president Dilip Ghosh demanded that Mondal be sent out of the state and kept under surveillance till the polls are over. The CEO’s order arose a few hours later.
The executive magistrate could not trace Mondal from 6 pm to 9 pm on Sunday since the TMC leader went on a tour of the district’s party offices. He appeared unperturbed when the media caught up with him after 9 pm.
“The Election Commission of India must have gone mad. It is acting on orders from Narendra Modi. This surveillance will not affect me in any way. And I don’t need my mobile phone to contact my men. I can use any phone. Our vote share went up despite the surveillance in 2016. The same thing will happen in this election,” he said.
“I went to our party offices in Suri, Muraroi, Labhpur and other places and told my men what to do tomorrow. I prescribed the right pills for every disease,” Mondal said in his signature style when asked what he was doing for more than three hours although he was supposed to be under surveillance.