When WhatsApp lets you file election-nomination and saves your life
WhatsApp is a messaging tool, a file-sharing platform, a payment portal, and now it's also a life-saver. Nine aspiring candidates of the WB panchayat elections couldn't go physically to submit their nomination; the ruling party's goons were allegedly assaulting whoever came to do so. So they sent their papers on WhatsApp. To their relief, the Calcutta HC has upheld the unprecedented move, approving their nomination.
Bhangar residents have been clashing with TMC activists since 2017
Residents of Bhangar have been opposing a power grid project in the region that started in January'17, which the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government seems determined to complete. Clashes frequently break out between villagers and TMC activists in the region. This time, some of them decided to rebel further and contest the panchayat elections; TMC had won all 16 seats in Bhangar last time, unopposed.
TMC activists first blockaded roads, then beat up opposition candidates
TMC activists were ready. They allegedly blockaded several roads, thus confining the villagers in the area. The BJP sought permission for e-filing of nominations citing violence by TMC members. The court refused, but asked the State Election Commission (SEC) to extend the nomination deadline by a day. However, when some candidates managed to reach government offices, they were beaten up by TMC supporters.
Only one nomination had been filed for each seat
"The court found that only one nomination had been submitted for each of the 16 seats- meaning, uncontested victory for all," said Sharmistha Chaudhury, who was representing the nine candidates in court. Then it finally ordered the SEC to accept the nomination documents the candidates had sent on WhatsApp. According to current rules, nominations have to be filed in person.
Will this judgement act as a precedent?
WB BJP President Dilip Ghosh hailed the move, saying they too were ready to "file thousands of nominations by e-mail." However, the situation in Bhangar was extraordinary, where goons had made it impossible for candidates to file nominations without getting harmed. Candidates faking nomination documents is anyway a big problem. Allowing electronic filing will increase that risk manifold, if done without extra security measures.