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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 25 June 2024

Election Commission of India to deploy fewer central forces for phase four of Lok Sabha polls

In the fourth phase, eight constituencies — Baharampur, Krishnanagar, Ranaghat, Purba Bardhaman, Burdwan-Durgapur, Asansol, Bolpur and Birbhum — across four south Bengal districts would go to the polls

Saibal Gupta Calcutta Published 12.05.24, 09:52 AM
Paramilitary personnel interact with residents in Nadia

Paramilitary personnel interact with residents in Nadia - PTI file picture

The Election Commission of India has decided to deploy fewer central force personnel in the fourth phase of the seven-phase Lok Sabha polls on Monday compared to the third phase held on May 7.

In the fourth phase, eight constituencies — Baharampur, Krishnanagar, Ranaghat, Purba Bardhaman, Burdwan-Durgapur, Asansol, Bolpur and Birbhum — across four south Bengal districts would go to the polls. Sources in the poll panel said 596 companies of central forces would be deployed in the fourth phase to man 15,507 booths.

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In the third phase, the poll panel deployed 406 companies of central forces for 7,360 booths of four constituencies.

Of the available 596 companies of central forces in the fourth phase, 578 companies will be deployed to guard the 15,507 booths where elections will be held on May 13. The remaining 18 companies will be tasked with supervising strong rooms and maintaining law and order in other districts.

“So, there will be no central force jawans for QRTs and area domination on the day of polls and before. These tasks would be done solely by the state police. This could create trouble as the Opposition often complains that state cops work for the ruling party in Bengal,” said a poll panel source.

EC sources said that as there were comparatively few complaints of intimidation on three poll days, the absence of central forces in the QRTs and area domination squads might not be a major problem on the fourth.

But a district magistrate pointed out that from the fourth phase, areas where the ruling party has a stronger presence would go for polls. “So, more central forces should have been deployed from the fourth phase, but the EC appeared to have failed to arrange the required number of forces at the crucial time,” said a source.

EC officials said the lack of central force presence might not be a problem as the number of sensitive booths had declined in the fourth phase compared to the third.

During the third phase, some 40 per cent of the
total booths were deemed sensitive. In the fourth phase, only some 21 per cent booths are deemed so.

“There have been tensions in certain areas of Baharampur, Bolpur and Birbhum constituencies and so additional security measures have been put in place for these three. The commission aims to ensure that the fourth phase is as peaceful as the preceding three phases,” the official added.

Given the historical instances of violence during elections in both Birbhum and Barahampur, the commission has deployed 130 companies of central forces in Birbhum and an additional 73 companies for the Barahampur constituency. Furthermore, 152 companies have been assigned to East Burdwan (district), followed by 88 companies for Asansol-Durgapur (police commisionerate), 81 and 54 companies for Krishnanagar and 54 companies for Ranaghat. In addition to the central forces guarding all the booths, there will be 68 QRTs in the eight constituencies.

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