The state of West Bengal has historically been one of the most troubled states in the country in terms of violence and denial of fundamental rights during the elections. The party in power in Bengal has been using muscle power to deny the people their democratic rights and hence achieve electoral benefits through unlawful tactics. This election season is too fraught with arbitrary arrests, booth capturing, clashes and violence allegedly perpetrated by the ruling party, aided by the state machinery.
During the West Bengal Panchayat elections in 2018, the thugs of Trinamool Congress (TMC) had unleashed terror to prevent the Opposition candidates from filing nominations. Massive political violence took place in these elections and the people were threatened. The Calcutta High Court had to intervene and extend the deadline for submission of nominations but the TMC had already won many seats by preventing the Opposition candidates from filing nominations. The death toll due to the electoral process had stood at 29.
Now, with the Lok Sabha elections, with much larger stakes, the gross violation of law and order had been even more drastic. These elections, what has been witnessed is TMC resorting to violence and muscle power to retain control over what they consider; the TMC bastion. Mamata Banerjee has been trying hard to stop other parties from campaigning in the state, given that she had denied BJP’s rath yatra in the state. However, now that the elections are in the last phases, desperate times have led to desperate measures and there has been rampant political violence in the state, furthered by Mamata Banerjee led TMC. TMC has violated the fundamental rights of the citizens, indulged in booth capturing and has used muscle power against all those who want a change in the state.
In light of the blatant denial of fundamental rights coupled by the total breakdown of the law and order situation in the state, many leaders have come out demanding President’s rule to be imposed in the state. As seen from the precedence set in West Bengal polling, Mamata Banerjee is incapable of maintaining the law and order in the state and is in fact the one who is causing the political violence to maintain her presence in the state.
According to Article 356 of the constitution, on the governor’s recommendation, a state can come under President’s rule in case of failure of constitutional machinery in the state. It basically implies the failure of the state to uphold the constitutional provisions in the state, thus giving rise to a difficult situation, demanding immediate action. In such a situation, since the state couldn’t function, the Central government will take direct control of the state machinery.
However, to prevent the misuse of the article, the Supreme Court under S.R Bommai case gives a set of guidelines to adhere to, in order to implement President’s rule in the state.
Out of all the situations underlined, imposition of President’s Rule in West Bengal would be proper in the following:
- Internal subversion where, for example, a government is deliberately acting against the Constitution and the law or is fomenting a violent revolt.
- Physical breakdown where the government willfully refuses to discharge its constitutional obligations endangering the security of the state.
According to the provisions, in order to put the state under President’s rule, the state government should have created a situation wherein the security of the state in being endangered due to an action or inaction of the state.
Mamata Banerjee has not only failed to discharge her obligations as a chief minister, but has also actively participated in threatening the security of the citizens in the state.
Taking a look at the atrocities committed by TMC, the recent incident involving BJP president Amit Shah tops the list. Amit Shah was conducting a road show in Kolkata, when the event witnessed violence as his convoy was attacked with stones and arson by TMC supporters, triggering a clash between supporters of the two parties. Amit Shah stated that the West Bengal Police did not do anything to ensure the safety of BJP workers. Such was the level of discourse that Amit Shah stated that if CRPF was not there, he could not have survived the violence.
While this has been a direct attack on a national leader, the voters aren’t safe either. Incidents of booth capture, smashing of electronic voting machines (EVM), intimidation of voters and malfunctioning of EVMs has been the highlight of the West Bengal elections. Amit Shah stated, “In the last six phases, only Bengal has witnessed violence.” He further pointed to the strangeness of the situation wherein only West Bengal is witnessing political violence during the elections and that happens to be the only state with a TMC stronghold. The rest of the country is undergoing peaceful polling.
Not just the violent unrest, even the fundamental rights have been suspended by Mamata Banerjee in the state which has led to arbitrary arrests. A woman named Priyanka Sharma was arrested following a criminal complaint filed against her by a local TMC leader because she shared a meme about Mamata Banerjee on Facebook. Even though Sharma was not guilty, she was asked to issue a written apology to Mamata Banerjee for the offence caused to her. However, the honorable Court later waived the apology condition. Journalists and caricaturists draw cartoons of leaders all the time, a part and parcel of the wide freedom to speech and expression guaranteed by the constitution. Mamata Banerjee however considers herself above the constitution and is curtailing the basic rights of an individual, destroying the democracy in the country.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh stated, “Law and order is a primary responsibility of a chief minister. She is unable to stop it… There is anarchy. I hold the state government responsible.”
So there exists a situation wherein the state is a mute spectator to the violence against individuals committed by ruling party’s workers. The TMC goons have been given a free reign where they are creating havoc to make sure that free and fair elections do not take place. A person’s fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression coupled with their voting right is being breached. Moreover, their right to life is being threatened as TMC is unleashing terror on whoever challenges the ruling regime; be it Amit Shah or the mere voter. The state government exists to ensure the safety and security of the citizens but in Mamata Banerjee led government, not only is TMC failing in its duty to do so but is actively taking measures to ensure that the citizens in West Bengal are not secure; thereby violating the constitutional provisions. With this willful refusal to discharge the constitutional obligations, it is but obvious that the state isn’t safe in the hands of the current state government and hence President’s rule is the immediate need to ensure the safety of the citizens and to ensure that free and fair elections can be carried out.
Our country has witnessed a number of impositions of President’s rule since independence. 27 out of 29 states have had President’s rule at some point of time. However, most of them have been due to political differences, achieving little. The situation in West Bengal is the rare occurrence wherein the actual internal security of the state has been breached, at the hands of the ruling party and state government has been watching from the sidelines. The lives of the citizens and their fundamental rights are being threatened. These people are no longer safe under the state government and as seen from West Bengal’s precedence, this isn’t a rare occurrence. What West Bengal has witnessed over the past 5 weeks has been nothing short of a “gunda raj”. Mamata Banerjee has been running the state as per her whims and fancies were the motive is not to govern judiciously but to ensure that TMC gets elected to the Lok Sabha. President’s rule is a mandate in such a situation, in order to ensure the basic right to life of a citizen.