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‘Full-proof security’ in place for remaining phases of polling in Bengal

By HindusthanSamachar | Publish Date: Apr 15 2019 3:54PM
‘Full-proof security’ in place for remaining phases of polling in Bengal
By Ankur Bhattacharya 325 companies of Central forces likely to be deployed in the state Kolkata, Apr 15 (HS): The number of central forces during the six remaining phases of Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal will be substantially increased by the Election Commission to ensure a free, fair and peaceful poll, besides effectively countering the possibility of major violence and resorting to several electoral mal practices by some political parties. This view was expressed here today by the office of the state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) referring to the incidents of violence in different areas of Coochbehar district during the first phase of polling on 11 April, unlike in most other parts of the country. According to Additional CEO Sanjay Basu, following the availability of more Central forces after the completion of elections in several North Eastern states, the Commission had decided to gradually increase the number of Central Para Military forces in West Bengal during the coming six Phase of elections between 18 April and 19 May. During this period their number was likely to be increased from the present 87 companies to 127 companies before 18 April, then gradually increased to 195 companies before the third phase (23 April) and finally as many as 325 companies would be deployed before the last phase of poll on 19 May. It may be recalled that though three was no loss of life during the 1st phase of poll in Coochbehar and Alipurduar Lok Sabha constituencies in North Bengal, several violent incidents and scuffles among the rival political parties took place in some areas along with other electoral mal practices like rigging and booth jamming causing concern to the Commission. in view of repeated violence in Dinhata, Sitalkuchi, Sitai and several other areas, the EC had now decided to deploy at least 40 additional Companies of Central Forces in the state during the next phase of elections (on 18 April) in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Raigunj Lok Sabha seats, to take their total number to 127 companies (from 87 Companies). The Commission had decided to take no chance this time to ensure an ''absolutely peaceful, free and fair elections in all the three constituencies'', said Additional CEO Basu. About their availability, he said since the elections in a number of states in the North East was now over after the first phase of poll, these additional 40 Companies could come from Sikkim, Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland within the next two days. Referring to the importance of Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat as it was almost equally divided between plains and hilly areas, the Additional CEO said a vast majority of these 127 companies of Central Forces should be deployed within Darjeeling constituency only. ''Since Darjeeling witnessed large scale violence and arson during the Gorkhaland agitation last year,leading to huge damage to life and property, the Commission is taking no chance this time'', he said adding moreover in view of the sharp divisions and huge tension among the rival political forces the deployment of more forces had now become necessary. Similarly, high pitched political tension between Congress, TMC, BJP and CPI-M was also prevailing in Raigunj constituency in North Dinajpur district and required strong presence of Central forces there too, he said. It may also be recalled that recently large sections of polling officials in Raigunj refused to take part in their training programmes as well as in the entire electoral process unless they were provided with Central security force at every polling station in view of their bitter experience last year. During the 2018 Panchayat elections,one of their colleagues - Rajkumar Roy - was found dead on Railway tracks at Itahar under mysterious circumstances a day after the polling. ''We do not want to be Rajkumar Roy any more'', they emphasised. As such, now it remains to be seen how many of altogether 5390 booths under three Lok Sabha constituencies (of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Raigunj) would be manned by Central Forces with the entire opposition demanding their posting in every booth, since only about 60 per cent of the total 3384 booths under Coochbehar and Alipurduar constituencies could be covered and protected by them because of lack of enough man power leading to violence despite the presence of State Police Forces. Of the three seats which are going to the poll next Thursday, Darjeeling and Raigunj belong to BJP (Surinder Singh Ahluwalia) and CPI-M (Mohammar Salim), while Jalapaiguri to Trinamool Congress (Bijay Chandra Barman). Hindusthan Samachar/Ankur/Shri Ram Shaw\
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