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Central force worry for two phases

Calcutta, March 5: Bengal is likely to get 230-250 companies of central forces for the five-phase Lok Sabha polls in the state, which officials said would not be sufficient for the third and fifth phases in which some of the most sensitive constituencies will vote.

According to the commission’s poll roster for Bengal, 17 constituencies will vote in the last phase on May 12, among them sensitive areas such as Barasat, Basirhat, Dum Dum and Barrackpore, besides Calcutta North and South.

On the same day, several “problematic” constituencies of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh will also go to polls.

“If the poll panel has to hold elections in so many sensitive constituencies across Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh on the same day, it better make sure that more forces are deployed,” a home department official said in Nabanna.

Although the Election Commission is yet to allot the companies for Bengal, sources said the state would get no more than 250 companies, around 30 companies more than the 2009 polls that were held in three phases. Around 680 companies of state police personnel will also be deployed this year.

About 80 field personnel make up a company.

State home department officials also criticised the “lopsided” distribution of constituencies. The third and fifth phases will also see the most number of constituencies vote in Bengal — nine on April 30 and 17 on May 12.

“In the third and fifth phases, where nine and 17 constituencies will vote, achieving full security coverage could be a problem. In the final phase, around 21,000 polling premises will be involved,” a Nabanna official said this evening.

Asked about poll security, Congress leader Manas Bhuniya said: “The commission must ensure all booths are manned by central forces.”

CPM leader Rabin Deb echoed Bhuniya.

Mamata Banerjee said the five-phase polls would give her “more time” to campaign, but pointed out that the commission would hold elections in two phases in Andhra Pradesh and in one phase in Karnataka, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.

Her party’s all-India general secretary, Mukul Roy, alleged “bias”. “There is a hint of bias in the way Bengal was given five phases. It is among the highest in the country. Besides, 17 constituencies in the last phase makes little sense,” Roy said after an all-party meeting at the Bengal chief electoral officer’s office.

Commission sources in Delhi said Bengal needed five phases. A senior official pointed out that the number of phases had been determined on the basis of vulnerability-assessment reports from the districts administration.

Asked about the inequitable distribution, a commission official said: “This is not unusual. There have been instances when parliamentary constituencies of one district have voted on two separate dates.”

The Bengal election commission had sought 800 companies of central forces for the panchayat polls last year, sparking a tussle with the government. The issue of primacy in conducting the rural polls landed in the Supreme Court, which made provisions for 295 companies of central forces.