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8 May 2018

No threat: Election chief Singh denies BJP claim

TT, Calcutta: Bengal election commissioner A.K. Singh said on Monday that the Trinamul Congress or any individual hadn't threatened to kill him, a day after the BJP had alleged that his life was under threat.

"Nobody from the TMC, no individual, no party, nobody has threatened me with murder," Singh said in his second interaction with the media after the process for the panchayat elections began.

Singh repeatedly insisted that he had never been at the receiving end of pressure from the ruling establishment.

The state election commissioner's assertion came in the wake of BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha's news conference on Sunday, where he claimed that Singh had told a party delegation that his office landlines and cellphones were being tapped.

Sinha said the commissioner was under "tremendous pressure" to toe the line of Nabanna on matters related to the rural polls.

The BJP leader also alleged that Singh's life was under threat, but did not explain what prompted him to make such a comment.

In response to questions on an alleged visit by Bengal ministers to his residence, prompting the withdrawal of his April 9 order extending the nomination phase by a day, Singh said: "People can come."

Calcutta: Bengal election commissioner A.K. Singh said on Monday that the Trinamul Congress or any individual hadn't threatened to kill him, a day after the BJP had alleged that his life was under threat.

"Nobody from the TMC, no individual, no party, nobody has threatened me with murder," Singh said in his second interaction with the media after the process for the panchayat elections began.

Singh repeatedly insisted that he had never been at the receiving end of pressure from the ruling establishment.

The state election commissioner's assertion came in the wake of BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha's news conference on Sunday, where he claimed that Singh had told a party delegation that his office landlines and cellphones were being tapped.

Sinha said the commissioner was under "tremendous pressure" to toe the line of Nabanna on matters related to the rural polls.

The BJP leader also alleged that Singh's life was under threat, but did not explain what prompted him to make such a comment.

In response to questions on an alleged visit by Bengal ministers to his residence, prompting the withdrawal of his April 9 order extending the nomination phase by a day, Singh said: "People can come."

"There are many disagreements with the government, but that has not amounted to threats. Also, if somebody dares to threaten me, it will not be easy for them to digest. I am not that sort of a person," he said at the headquarters of the commission at 18 Rawdon Street here.

On Monday evening, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said her party could have taken legal steps against the allegations.

"The allegations levelled yesterday (Sunday), if Trinamul takes legal measures, can anything be said?" she asked, before asserting that in the run-up to the rural polls, it was the ruling party that was facing attacks from Opposition organisations.

Asked about Singh's presser, Rahul Sinha said on Monday: "Singh's original reaction was 'no comment'. After that, there was (Trinamul secretary-general) Partha Chatterjee's statement demanding clarification on the matter from him. Hence, the news conference today (Monday)."

"This is yet another example of how much pressure he has been under. The judiciary ought to record his statement confidentially to know what has really been going on," Sinha added.

Singh, who is not known for interactions with the media, said he had decided to hold the news conference after officials in his secretariat pointed out what was being alleged regarding him.

The election commissioner said there were never "outsiders" present at his meetings with delegations of the Opposition - allegedly recording the conversations - and those present were either security personnel or members of the office staff. "Also, none of my phones has ever been tapped, to the best of my knowledge," he said.

Singh added that he had also seen some parts of Sinha's news conference on television and decided to issue a statement after some journalists, including from this newspaper, contacted him on Sunday.

Although several questions were asked regarding the commission's role and the judiciary's observations against it, Singh declined comment.

"The matter is now sub judice.... When the time comes, I will hold another press conference and say everything that is there to be said," he said.

"There are many disagreements with the government, but that has not amounted to threats. Also, if somebody dares to threaten me, it will not be easy for them to digest. I am not that sort of a person," he said at the headquarters of the commission at 18 Rawdon Street here.

On Monday evening, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said her party could have taken legal steps against the allegations.

"The allegations levelled yesterday (Sunday), if Trinamul takes legal measures, can anything be said?" she asked, before asserting that in the run-up to the rural polls, it was the ruling party that was facing attacks from Opposition organisations.

Asked about Singh's presser, Rahul Sinha said on Monday: "Singh's original reaction was 'no comment'. After that, there was (Trinamul secretary-general) Partha Chatterjee's statement demanding clarification on the matter from him. Hence, the news conference today (Monday)."

"This is yet another example of how much pressure he has been under. The judiciary ought to record his statement confidentially to know what has really been going on," Sinha added.

Singh, who is not known for interactions with the media, said he had decided to hold the news conference after officials in his secretariat pointed out what was being alleged regarding him.

The election commissioner said there were never "outsiders" present at his meetings with delegations of the Opposition - allegedly recording the conversations - and those present were either security personnel or members of the office staff. "Also, none of my phones has ever been tapped, to the best of my knowledge," he said.

Singh added that he had also seen some parts of Sinha's news conference on television and decided to issue a statement after some journalists, including from this newspaper, contacted him on Sunday.

Although several questions were asked regarding the commission's role and the judiciary's observations against it, Singh declined comment.

"The matter is now sub judice.... When the time comes, I will hold another press conference and say everything that is there to be said," he said.

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