Acting strongly in the wake of violence between BJP and TMC workers in Kolkata on Tuesday, the Election Commission on Wednesday ordered election campaigning in the state to end at 10 pm on Thursday till the conclusion of Lok Sabha elections -- a day before its scheduled deadline.
As per the EC order, a ban on poll campaigning has been imposed in nine Parliamentary constituencies of Dumdum, Barasat, Basirghat, Jaynagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Habour, Jadavpur, Kolkata Dakshin and Kolkata Uttar which will see polling on May 19.
Expressing anger over the violence that marred Kolkata on Tuesday evening, the poll panel invoked Article 324 for the first time ever.
"This is probably the first time that ECI has invoked Article 324 in this manner but it may not be last in cases of repetition of lawlessness and violence which vitiate the conduct of polls in a peaceful manner," the Election Commission said in a media briefing.
"The Commission is deeply anguished at the vandalism done to the statue of Vidyasagar. It is hoped that the vandals are traced by the state administration," it added.
In a strict action, the poll panel also removed ADG CID Rajiv Kumar from his post and shifted him to MHA. Also, Atri Bhattacharya,Principal Secretary, Home and Health Affairs (West Bengal government) was removed for "interfering in process of conducting polls by directing West Bengal Chief Election Officer".
Earlier in the day, Shah blamed West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress for violence during his roadshow in Kolkata and accused the Election Commission of "double standards" for remaining a "mute spectator" to rigging and violation of the poll code in the state.
In a separate press conference, Trinamool Congress released videos to claim that "BJP goons" damaged the statue of Vidyasagar and accused the saffron party of violence.
Shah in turn accused TMC "goons" of vandalising the bust, saying it was done to gain "sympathy" as the Banerjee-led party has realised its "reverse count" has begun. He too showed pictures of Tuesday's violence to blame the TMC.
BJP and Trinamool supporters on Tuesday fought pitched battles on the streets of Kolkata during a massive road show by Amit Shah, who escaped unhurt but was forced to cut short the jamboree and had to be escorted to safety by the police.
Parts of the city plunged into a welter of violence as his convoy was attacked with stones by alleged Trinamool supporters from inside the hostel of Vidyasagar College, triggering a clash between supporters of the two parties.
Furious BJP supporters retaliated and were seen exchanging blows with their TMC rivals outside the college entrance.
The Trinamool also accused Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain of giving orders to the police not to intervene in BJP issues in state.