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How ‘Bangladeshi citizen’ Alo Rani Sarkar fought West Bengal polls, moved HC against BJP rival

File photo of Alo Rani Sarkar | Facebook

Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court Friday dismissed an election petition filed by Alo Rani Sarkar, a Trinamool candidate for the Bangaon Dakshin constituency in last year’s West Bengal Assembly elections, on the ground that she was a “foreign national” — a citizen of Bangladesh — when she had fought the elections.

Fifty-year-old Sarkar had moved an election petition in Calcutta High Court on 11 June, 2021, against sitting BJP MLA Swapan Majumdar — to whom she had lost last year’s elections by 2000 votes — alleging that he had lied about his education qualifications and also engaged in campaigning during the ‘silent period’ before voting, when campaigning is not allowed. She had also accused Majumdar of ransacking her office along with officers of the central force.

In a strange twist, however, the nearly year-long court proceedings revealed her own alleged foreign citizenship which disqualified her from fighting elections in India.

A single bench of Justice Bibek Chaudhuri decided Friday that Sarkar was a citizen of Bangladesh when she fought polls and submitted the election petition challenging last year’s 2 May election outcome.

The HC also directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to immediately act in the matter.

“In view of the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case, a copy of this order be sent to the Election Commission of India for information and taking necessary action in respect of the petitioner’s status in this country as on this date,” the HC order read.

Meanwhile, the case has started a war of words between the ruling Trinamool Congress in the state and the BJP, with the former alleging that Sarkar had fought the 2016 assembly elections on a BJP ticket.

ThePrint reached Alo Rani Sarkar over telephone and text messages, but did not receive a response till the publication of this article. The copy will be updated when she responds.

What transpired in Court

The respondent, BJP MLA Swapan Majumdar’s counsel submitted in court that Alo Rani Sarkar had taken up the citizenship of Bangladesh, after marrying a Bangladeshi citizen in 1980. Majumdar’s counsel also alleged that her name was recorded in the National Identity Card of Bangladesh, against the number 7307645577, which made her a bonafide voter of Barisal, Bangladesh.

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The HC order noted that under Bangladeshi law, anyone married to a Bangladeshi national residing in Bangladesh for over two years, may take up Bangladeshi citizenship. Majumdar’s counsel contented that after marriage, Alo Rani Sarkar lived in Bangladesh for five years with her husband, before the two separated.

While arguing the matter, Alo Rani Sarkar’s counsel submitted in court that her name had been enrolled as a voter in Bangladesh by mistake and that on 5 November 2020, Sarkar had made a representation to the secretary, Election Commission Secretariat, Dhaka requesting deletion of her name from the country’s electoral rolls.

According to Sarkar’s lawyer, the request was accepted and passed in August 2021.

The court found, however, that when Sarkar had filed her nomination papers for the 2021 West Bengal assembly polls, fought the election, and moved the Calcutta High Court petition against Majumdar, she was still holding a Bangladeshi citizenship.

While Sarkar’s lawyer had submitted that she had been born in West Bengal’s Hoogly district on 22 March, 1969, an inquiry report submitted in court by a Bangladesh electoral officer dealing with the cancellation of Sarkar’s name in the neighbouring country’s electoral rolls, claimed that her parents were from Bangladesh and that she came to India as a child to live with her uncle.

The Court also recorded that her mother and brother are still residing in Bangladesh’s Pirojpur.

“The petitioner is a foreign national and not a citizen of India, the election petition filed by her is barred by law. It is not clear till date if her name has been deleted from the electoral roll of Bangladesh,” read the Calcutta High Court judgment.

“Alo Rani Sarkar fought polls in 2016 as BJP candidate”

Meanwhile a political accusatory game has already started between the BJP and Trinamool, centred around Sarkar.

Trinamool Congress leader Joy Prakash Majumdar pointed finger at the BJP, saying Sarkar had been the BJP candidate from Bijpur in the 2016 West Bengal Assembly polls.

Talking to ThePrint, the Trinamool leader said, “High Court has given direction to the ECI, let ECI answer how a Bangladeshi citizen got a voter card and how she fought polls. This isn’t even her first time. In 2016, she was a BJP candidate from Bijpur.”

BJP MLA Swapan Majumdar, the respondent in the case, told ThePrint, he was unaware of Sarkar’s BJP links.

“Back in 2004, she came from Bangladesh to India. I am a businessman by profession which entails import and export, so I have links in Bangladesh. Through this chain, I looked up Alo Rani Sarkar and one of my associates happened to live next to her house in Bangladesh, who helped me with the details,” he claimed.