The refusal of the Supreme Court to intercede following the Calcutta high court order directing deployment of the Central paramilitary forces in the wake of violence related to local body elections reflects a certain lack of confidence in the ability of the West Bengal government to conduct free and fair polls. Responding to a petition moved by the leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly Suvendu Adhikari, the high court had, on June 15, directed the state election commission to requisition Central forces in all districts within 48 hours.
The court order came in the backdrop of violence in several parts of the state. Four persons were killed on the day on which it issued the order, which was also the last day for the filing of nominations for the polls scheduled to be held on July 8. Two more have since then lost their lives. There are reports of other violence, too, even bomb-throwing at a Union minister of state and other political workers.
While the BJP and the Left Front have been complaining about the Trinamul Congress unleashing its muscle power on them, the state’s ruling party, too, has lost a worker in the clashes. This indicates that the police have not been able to control the troublemakers.
This is not the first time that the state’s police force and its political masters have cut a sorry figure. The police had no clues about the impending violence during Ram Navami in Howrah and Hooghly this year. The high court was again forced to intervene and order the National investigation Agency to probe the events, unprecedented in the history of the state.
It is time that the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal realises its responsibility of protecting the lives and property of the people of the state. It also has the job of conducting a free and fair election.
That being said, none of these parties can be blamed for the present culture of bloodshed. The Emergency can easily be seen as the most violent of times. Left Front rule saw little difference, especially during the fag-end and the Trinamul has been faithfully carrying the legacy forward. Not to be outdone, the BJP, too, is making its own mark.
Yet the responsibility to keep the peace primarily rests on the ruling party which bears the constitutional duty and the means to do so.
It is certainly no business of the state governor who has opened a “peace room” in Raj Bhavan to receive complaints from the people. This actually belittles his office and betrays his lack of respect for the Constitution. The governor is supposed to act on the aid and advice of the council of ministers. His job is limited to informing the President if a situation has arisen in which the government of the state cannot carry out its functions.
It is up to the elected government, and it alone, to ensure that law and order is maintained in the state.