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EVM room in TMC belt

Calcutta, April 3: The North 24-Parganas administration has decided to set up the Barasat Lok Sabha seat’s election strongroom, where EVMs are kept, at a private educational institution in a Trinamul stronghold, 9km from the usual venue at a government college opposite a police station.

Left Front partners Forward Bloc and CPI have written to the Election Commission, raising “security concerns” and apprehending tampering of EVMs.

EVMs are kept in strongrooms before and after polling and are guarded by central and state security personnel. Party workers often gather outside the premises where strongrooms are set up to keep an eye on possible malpractices by rivals.

This time, the district administration has chosen a private institute on the Barasat-Barrackpore road, around 9km from Barasat police station, for the safekeeping of the EVMs. For the past several elections, the strongroom for the area used to be set up at Barasat Government College, which is opposite the police station.

Cops said the college’s proximity to the police station should have made it the “logical choice”.

“We are not going to accept the decision of not setting up the strongroom at the college. The area where the strongroom will be set up is isolated and not safe for our party workers. We have written to the Election Commission, seeking to know the reason behind the move,” said Sanjib Chatterjee, a Forward Bloc district secretariat member.

CPI district secretary Swapan Banerjee hinted at a conspiracy, drawing attention to the fact that the private institution where the strongroom would be set up fell in the area under the Trinamul-controlled Icchapur-Nilganj panchayat. Banerjee feared Left workers could be “threatened”.

District magistrate Sanjay Bansal was not available for comment.

Senior district officials said that according to an EC directive, there must be space for parking at least 200 vehicles on the premises of the strongroom venue. “Such parking arrangements could be made in and around the college premises,” an official said.

“The government college is ideal because it is in the middle of the town and opposite a police station. Making security arrangements would have been a lot easier,” he added.