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All Sujapur booths declared sensitive

- EC to deploy paramilitary forces at over 900 voting centres in South Malda

Malda, April 21: The Election Commission has declared all 212 polling stations in the Sujapur Assembly segment of the South Malda Lok Sabha constituency sensitive, entailing deployment of four armed paramilitary jawans in each of its booths during voting on April 24.

Sources in the Malda district administration said there were a total of 1,510 polling stations in South Malda and over 900 of them had been declared sensitive.

“Each sensitive polling station will have four armed persons from paramilitary forces along with two lathi-wielding policemen. Besides, micro-observers and video cameramen are also deployed wherever possible. At non-sensitive booths, two armed policemen, not necessarily from central forces, and two lathi-wielding policemen are deployed,” said a source.

A polling booth is judged sensitive based on several parameters. A particular booth can be declared sensitive if more than 90 per cent or below 50 per cent of votes were cast at the centre, or more than 75 per cent votes polled there were in favour of a single candidate in the previous elections. Communal sensitivity, history of communal violence, political clashes and records of intimidation are also taken into account while declaring a booth sensitive.

Malda district magistrate Sharad Dwivedi said 44 companies of paramilitary forces would be posted across the district for the polls. “We are trying to keep central forces at as many polling stations as possible,” he said.

In South Malda constituency, there will be one micro-observer each in 330 polling stations. “Eighty booths will have video cameramen and there will be webcast from 80 polling centres in the seat,” said the source.

Two Assembly seats in South Malda — Shamsherganj and Farakka — are in Murshidabad district.

On the other hand, in the North Malda Lok Sabha constituency, 579 out of a total of 1,573 polling booths have been marked as sensitive. There will be 93 micro-observers, videography at 76 polling stations and webcast from 11 voting centres in North Malda.

Dwivedi said the Election Commission was taking all steps to ensure free and fair polls on April 24.

“There are a total of 3,083 polling stations in both the Lok Sabha seats of North Malda and South Malda. The Election Commission is taking all steps to see that people exercise their franchise without fear. We have also finalised a list of sensitive booths,” he said.

Ashraful Biswas, the election agent of the Congress’s South Malda candidate, Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury, said his party had complained to the EC about the situation in Sujapur.

“We had submitted a list of 107 polling stations in Sujapur to the EC and made it clear that unless there was adequate central forces, people would not be able to come out and vote. The ruling party in the state is spreading terror. We have told the EC that we are being unable to get agents in 30 polling stations in Sujapur. Our members and workers feel scared to become the agents at these booths,” he said.

Biswas said the Congress had sent a list of 450 polling stations in all seven Assembly segments of South Malda Lok Sabha seat to the EC, saying they were all sensitive. “Criminals owing allegiance to the ruling Trinamul Congress are still openly roaming these areas and threatening our voters. Police are remaining silent,” said Biswas.

The district secretary of the CPM, Ambar Mitra, said there were many polling stations in Sujapur where party cadres were afraid to sit as agents. “In the last panchayat elections, we could not put up candidates in 49 gram panchayat seats in Sujapur. We have submitted to the EC a list of 500 polling stations across the district that we have found to be sensitive,” Mitra said.

Malda Trinamul president and minister of state for social welfare, Sabitri Mitra, sought to scoff at the charges levelled by the rival parties. “The fact is that many have left the Congress and joined us. As a result, the Congress is not finding people to appoint agents at polling stations. The party wants to capture polling stations by using the central forces as a shield. We have submitted a list of 50 polling stations in Sujapur that the Congress is targeting to capture. The Congress knows that it has lost its ground in Sujapur,” she said.