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How EC plans to tackle last two poll phases in Bengal

Under pressure to perform after criticism from the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, and the Congress, and persistent prods from the Left Front, the Election Commission will try to make its presence felt in the remaining two phases of polling in Bengal.

A day before the fourth phase — in which nearly 89 lakh people in six constituencies will vote — the commission tried to ensure efficacy in the use of 341 companies of central forces. Jhargram, Midnapore, Purulia, Bankura, Bishnupur and Asansol will vote on Wednesday. Other than Asansol and Bishnupur, the remaining four constituencies fall in Jungle Mahal.

Deputy election commissioner Vinod Zutshi, in charge of electioneering in Bengal, said in Delhi on Tuesday that the EC would not tolerate intimidation of polling agents, which was alleged in the third phase.

Zutshi said political parties had been asked to provide separate lists of booths where central forces are not seen in the fourth and fifth phases, and those where electoral malpractice takes place.

“The complaints would be inquired into. If they are found to be true, the commission will ensure action in 24 hours. Re-polling will be ordered in booths where malpractice takes place,” Zutshi said.

A slew of other measures, such as stringent monitoring of election officials, ensuring presence of agents of all parties in all polling stations and better video surveillance, will be adopted for the 11,321 booths on Wednesday.

The Telegraph takes a closer look

CENTRAL FORCES

Problem in third phase

Insufficient presence of central forces in and around booths, especially in sensitive areas, despite deployment of 261 companies

The plan

341 companies, 121 more than that deployed in the entire state in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections

Presence of central force personnel at the entrance of booths and more visibility around polling stations

Coordination between central forces and election officials

Central force presence to be established by photography or videography

20 satellite phones, 3 helicopters and 8 anti-mine vehicles Difference with third phase

More visibility as a confidence-building measure

Monitoring of booth activities by central forces

Central forces and election officials to work in close coordination at booth level

PRESIDING OFFICERS

Problem in third phase

Alleged intimidation of presiding officers

The plan

Greater central force presence at booths

Central forces to escort polling officials after elections

Presiding officers to use available central forces to prevent electoral malpractice

3 quick-response teams of central force personnel, police officers, observers and election officials in every sector to ensure response time of 30 minutes or less

Difference with third phase

Coordination between presiding officers and central forces

Confidence-building measures for presiding officers

Provision of response in 30 minutes or less

CAMERAS

Problem in third phase

Many of the 566 digital cameras and 1,631 video cameras not used properly. 50 per cent of the 366 booths that were supposed to web-cast could not do so

The plan

Web-casting from 177 booths. Service providers asked to ensure glitch-free transmission

1,000-odd video cameras

2,200-odd digital cameras

Difference from the third phase

Specific instructions to use cameras effectively in booths

POLLING AGENTS

Problem in third phase

Allegations of booth capturing and rigging against Trinamul in nearly 2,000 polling stations. Polling agents allegedly driven out of 800 booths

The plan

One polling agent and two relief polling agents in every booth for each party

A relief agent must take the place of the polling agent whenever the latter goes out

Movements of agents to be tracked by observers and presiding officers

Phone numbers of senior election and police officers given to polling agents to ensure timely intervention

Complaints from polling agents to be looked into immediately

Difference with third phase

Direct monitoring of polling agents’ movements by the commission

At no point would a booth be left without a polling agent from each party

Effective communication between agents and election and police officers

OTHER MEASURES

Special surveillance teams in each district to be formed by the chief electoral officer

Control rooms for district election officers with special teams to track each booth

Media-monitoring cells to be formed by district election officers and the chief electoral officer to track coverage by news channels. Untoward incidents reported should be addressed without awaiting formal reports or complaints

Micro-observers in booths to keep their cellphones on silent mode

THE ‘BATTLE’

The Opposition has dubbed the last two phases of polling in Bengal a “battle” between the commission and the Trinamul Congress.

“We can only hope that the commission will emerge victorious. Or else, the polls in Bengal will not be free, fair and peaceful,” said CPM state secretariat member Rabin Deb.