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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 18 June 2024

Ministry of home affairs to not be able to send 920 companies of central forces to Bengal as ordered by Election Commission

Bengal to get 689 paramilitary companies

Saibal Gupta, Pranesh Sarkar Calcutta Published 01.05.24, 10:28 AM
Representational image

Representational image File picture

The ministry of home affairs (MHA) will not be able to send 920 companies of central forces to Bengal for the ongoing Lok Sabha polls as requisitioned by the Election Commission amidst questions on whether the EC will be able to deploy paramilitary personnel at all booths in the last two phases of the voting.

“The MHA will be able to send 689 companies of central forces in total to Bengal even though the Nirvachan Sadan wanted to deploy 920 companies in the state keeping in mind violent incidents during the last panchayat polls. It is yet to be clear whether the central forces could be deployed in all areas wherever required,” said a source.

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Senior EC officials said the preliminary estimates were that central forces could be deployed in all booths in the sixth and the seventh phases of the voting with the available paramilitary personnel. However, it is yet to be confirmed whether enough central forces could be deployed in quick response teams (QRTs) and for area domination.

According to officials, deployment of central forces in the QRTs and for area domination is crucial in Bengal as Opposition parties often allege that cadres of the ruling party flexed their muscles outside the booths and prevented people from casting their votes.

“As Opposition parties don’t trust police, deployment of central forces in the QRT and for area domination is necessary as these teams intervene whenever such complaints come up,” explained another source.

In the sixth and the seventh phases, eight and nine parliamentary constituencies will go to the polls, respectively. The sixth phase of the polls will be held on May 25 and the seventh phase on June 1.

“As the last two phases will have the maximum number of polling stations, it appears most of the available forces would have to be deployed at the booths. So, there won’t be enough forces for QRTs. We might not be able to deploy central forces in the patrolling teams, too,” a senior official in the chief electoral officer’s office said.

At present, there are 596 companies of paramilitary forces deployed in the state and they will be used to man the polling stations in the third and the fourth phases of the elections.

The Opposition parties, mainly the CPM and the Congress, alleged that the drop in the number of forces was a result of a “secret understanding” between the BJP and the Trinamool Congress.

“The Election Commission is telling something but doing just the opposite. We have been observing this from the beginning. Whether there are central forces or not, people will cast their votes,” CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty said.

BJP leader Rahul Sinha, however, refused to accept that there would be a deficit of forces.

“This is nothing but propaganda of Trinamool. They had said this before the
first two phases and now, they are trying to spread a rumour to give confidence to their cadres. The election will take place with the presence of central forces only,” Sinha said.

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