The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nation comes in Gujarat’s way
- Centre cites security threat to go slow on poll panel plea for forces

New Delhi, Nov. 5: The Union home ministry appears reluctant to comply with the Election Commission’s request to deploy 400 companies of the Central Reserve Police Force in Gujarat for the ensuing Assembly elections.

The poll panel had asked for a large reserve of forces in view of the sensitive situation in the state that was rocked by communal riots earlier in the year.

Though the ministry is bound to honour the commission’s request, it may try to plead for a lesser number of companies of Central forces on the ground that the security situation in the entire country is sensitive and the government cannot afford to spare such a large force for Gujarat alone.

At an earlier meeting with the home secretary, the commission had said that an “extraordinary” situation prevailed in Gujarat and that it wanted 200 companies to be deployed before the state went to polls. The massive arrangement would be part of its “confidence-building” measures, the panel said.

The commission has urged the Centre to deploy another 200 companies on the day of polling — December 12 — to ensure that the minority community members can cast their votes without fear.

Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh has come in for flak from governments at the Centre and in Gujarat for “delaying” the Assembly polls.

At the centre of the tussle has been the commission’s contention that the situation in Gujarat is far from “normal”.

Chief minister Narendra Modi and his backers in the BJP have been saying all along that the situation in the strife torn state is back to normal.

But much to the chagrin of the party, the poll panel chief made it clear that the situation in Gujarat was fragile and there was need for confidence-building measures so that Muslims, many of them still suffering from a deep sense of insecurity, can vote fearlessly.

This is not what Gujarat’s BJP chief minister believes. In fact, he has unleashed an aggressive campaign claiming to have carried out rehabilitation for the riot victims to satisfaction — a claim that has been rebutted by non-government organisations working among Muslims in the relief camps.

Close on the heels of announcing the poll date for Gujarat, the Commission set in motion a series of measures to rein in fundamentalist groups operating in the state and chief minister Narendra Modi.

Last week, it issued a directive to the state government asking it not to display hoardings and posters that can lead to tension between communities.

It has also sought a compliance report from the state government on its directive to transfer officers who have been posted in a particular district for more than 4 years.

So far, the government has only transferred junior level officers.

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