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regular-article-logo Thursday, 30 May 2024

Election Commission of India to send 170 companies of central forces for first phase of Lok Sabha polls on April 19

Sources in poll panel said that according to primary plans, 330 companies of central force would be used for first phase of polls, in all, 270 companies would be required to guard booths and 60 companies would be deployed in QRT and area domination

Saibal Gupta Calcutta Published 08.04.24, 10:46 AM
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The Election Commission of India has decided to send another 170 companies of central forces to Bengal for the first phase of Lok Sabha polls on April 19 when Cooch Behar, Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri will cast their franchise.

As 177 companies of central forces are already deployed in Bengal, the state would have 347 companies of central force ahead of the first phase of polls and this would allow the poll panel to deploy central force jawans in all 5,814 booths spread across the three Lok Sabha constituencies.

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Sources in the poll panel said that according to primary plans, 330 companies of central force would be used for the first phase of polls. In all, 270 companies would be required to guard the booths and 60 companies would be deployed in the quick response teams (QRT) and area domination.

Sources said that the extra 170 companies will reach Bengal in two phases. First, 100 companies of central forces are likely to reach the state by Wednesday, and 70 companies after April 15.

Nirvachan Sadan sources indicated that the home ministry is exploring the possibility of acquiring forces from states like Gujarat, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh and send to Bengal. This move was initiated after it was found that it would be tough to send 170 companies of central armed paramilitary forces (CAPF) to Bengal ahead of the first phase of polls as 102 Lok Sabha constituencies spread across 21 states would go for polls on April 19.

“We have stressed the deployment of CAPF in as many areas as possible. But we have to raise supplementary forces with various state police force as most of the states will go for polls in the first two phases of the Lok Sabha election this time,” stated a senior official in the EC.

Initially, the EC requested the home ministry to sanction 920 companies of central forces for elections in Bengal. The ministry had sent 150 companies of central forces to Bengal even before the elections were officially announced. Subsequently, an additional 27 companies were sent to Bengal after poll dates were declared.

But till last week, the EC was unsure if it would get enough central forces to guard all the booths in the first phase. The poll panel was preparing alternatives such as deploying state police in 40 per cent of the booths and had made webcasting mandatory in all booths in the first phase.

However, on Saturday the situation changed after the NIA officers were attacked allegedly by villagers in Bhupatinagar when they went to probe a 2022 blast case at a Trinamul leader's house.

Sources said that the chief electoral officer Aariz Aftab reached out to the home ministry on Saturday evening and requested 200 more companies of central forces. Initially, the ministry approved 100 companies, but later in the day, it sanctioned 70 more.

Sources also said BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari had put pressure on Delhi for extra forces.

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