60,000 arrest warrants against politicians pending in West Bengal

KOLKATA — West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya says he has no option but to arrest wanted politicians because Election Commission wants all arrest warrants against political leaders to be executed come what may before poll dates are announced. Bhattacharya expressed his helplessness yesterday on the floor of the West Bengal legislative assembly. “Personally, I’m opposed to arresting politicians. But I have to follow the EC’s directives. My hands are tied”, the CM told the house. Almost 60,000 arrest warrants issued by courts against politicians of all hues were pending in the state until Tuesday.

On Tuesday, EC ordered chief secretary, home secretary, director-general of police and state election officer to appear before the poll panel in New Delhi on February 20 to give them a dressing down for their failure to arrest politicians. Since the summons, 1,400 arrest warrants have been executed at breck-neck speed across the Left Front ruled state in deference to the powerful EC’s diktat.

Senior officials said the commission’s instruction to execute all non-bailable warrants has been conveyed to all district superintendents of police and raids are taking places everywhere in the state. Mamata Banerjee had earlier dared the government to execute a warrant against her. The Barasat court had ordered the police to arrest her in connection with a 1994 incident in the North 24-Parganas district headquarters in which a man was killed in police firing. But the police did nothing. State CPI(M) secretary, Anil Biswas, said the government had no plans to arrest the Trinamool Congress chief, because it didn’t want to hand a poll plank to the opposition on a platter. In the Assembly, Bhattacharya said without naming Banerjee that the Barasat incident was much more dangerous than the case in which CPI(M) Minister Narayan Biswas had to resign from the government and surrender in court.

Significantly, Biswas put in his papers on Bhattacharya’s insistence. The warrant against Biswas, a leader from Balurghat, was pending for 26 years. “Having learnt about the status of Narayan’s case, we asked him to resign. But we didn’t do that in your (the Trinamool leader’s) case. I don’t want to touch you at all. But my only compulsion is the Election Commission”, the CM said looking in the direction of TC legislators. Things suddenly started moving after EC, which is very unhappy with the West Bengal government’s failure to execute thousands of non-bailable arrest warrants, summoned senior-most state officials to Delhi for a dressing down. But the government’s strategy for execeuting the arrest warrant against Banerjee is still a mystery.

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