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EC beefs up observer army

Calcutta, April 21: For the second phase of polls tomorrow, the Election Commission is despatching an unspecified number of additional observers to constituencies about which there is a flurry of complaints of CPM intimidation.

The observers are being sent to some nine constituencies of the Arambagh subdivision in Hooghly which is going to the polls along with East Midnapore, Howrah and Nadia.

“Additional observers being deployed here are over and above the two general observers posted at every constituency,” said a poll official.

Like Keshpur in West Midnapore that turned into a show of strength between the commission and the CPM, Arambagh, Goghat, Khanakul and Pursura in Hooghly could see a huge presence of election officials and an equally massive voter mobilisation by the Left.

In the first phase on April 17, the turnout was 81 per cent ' the EC said people voted without fear and the CPM claimed it had got more people out to polling stations.

The turnout battle will continue in the second phase covering 66 seats, 43 of which are with the Left. In 2001, at the height of Mamata Banerjee’s popularity, the Trinamul-Congress combine had won 23.

The reason for extra deployment of observers in some of the Hooghly seats is the almost complete CPM domination.

In the 2001 Assembly election, the CPM won from the Arambagh seat by over a lakh votes. In 2003, its domination of the area was complete, with over 1,000 CPM candidates winning the panchayat polls uncontested as Trinamul couldn’t put up nominees.

Following Trinamul complaints of intimidation, poll officials and the police are asking people to come out and vote without fear.

“There is saturation-level arrangement everywhere. A-plus category security arrangements have been made, with four to eight paramilitary jawans posted at every polling station,” said an election official.

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