The Trinamool Congress on Saturday alleged that the ECI had favoured the BJP by changing a norm that has been in practice for years. Soon after, an audio conversation purportedly of a discussion of two BJP leaders planning to ask the Election Commission to make these changes went viral in the local media.
Veteran TMC minister Subrata Mukherjee made the allegations while addressing the media in Kolkata on Saturday afternoon, the day of the first phase polling.
He alleged that the ECI changed the norm merely on the basis of a deputation by the BJP leaders without consulting other parties.
The norm in question is about appointing polling agents for the polling booths. The norm had so far been of appointing polling agents only from among the voters of that particular booth. However, this year, following the BJP's deputation, agents were allowed to be appointed from any part of the state.
The TMC alleged this was done to favour the BJP, which did not have organisational presence at a significant number of polling booths.
According to the ECI's existing guidelines on the appointment of polling agents, it is suggested that they are from the same polling booth so that they could properly identify the voters. However, this is not mandatory, even though this has been the traditional practice.
According to some senior BJP leaders, the party does not have booth-level committees in about 8,000 of the state's about 79,000 polling booths.
Soon after the press conference, an audio clip emerged in which voices resembling those of BJP national vice-president Mukul Roy and senior leader Sisir Bajoria were heard discussing the move to ask the ECI for changing this norm.
The voice resembling that of Roy was heard telling that this change was needed because the party would not be able to appointment polling agents in "a certain percentage of booths."
This conversation appeared to have taken place before March 21.
No response from the ECI came till filing this report.
A senior BJP leader, who did not want to be named, defended their demand for the change, arguing that it was due to terror unleashed by the TMC that many local residents were scared to act as polling agents of the TMC's opponents.
No response from the Left and the Congress was available either till filing this report.