Central forces set to beat Bengal poll dates
The Union ministry of home affairs has decided to send 12 companies of central paramilitary forces to Bengal by Friday night and another 113 companies by February 25 for the purpose of area domination ahead of the Assembly polls.
The unprecedented early despatch of the troops has come as a surprise for the state administration.
Sources said the chief electoral officer of Bengal had already sent a detailed deployment plan of the forces and based on it, Nabanna had asked district authorities to make required arrangements.
Multiple sources in the state administration said they could not recall an instance of the central forces getting deployed even before election dates were announced.
“So far, a few companies of central forces were sent to the state for area domination after election dates were declared. I can recall that about 30 companies were sent to the state after dates of 2016 Assembly polls had been declared and around 40 companies were despatched following the announcement of the 2019 Lok Sabha election dates,” said an official.
“But sending 125 companies even before poll dates are declared is unprecedented in the recent past.”
Each company of the central force — headed by an assistant commandant — has 80 to 100 men. The state government has to bear the expenses incurred by the forces sent by the Centre.
A section of state government officials said the Election Commission had sent a stern message to the Bengal government by deploying 125 companies of central forces ahead of the polls.
“This sends a message that the poll panel is not satisfied with the law and order in the state. It also makes it clear that the poll panel was taking note of the complaints lodged by the Opposition, mainly the BJP, about the state’s law and order,” said another official.
A source said that jawans of the 125 companies — 60 of CRPF, 30 of SSB, 25 of BSF and five each of CISF and the ITBP —would be deployed across 35 police districts in Bengal.
Deployment of a large number of central forces much before the poll dates are declared also drops a hint the EC would initiate all possible measures to hold an incident-free election in the state this year.
The sources also pointed out that it also gave a clear hint that the EC was laying special emphasis on Bengal ahead of the polls this year.
“I am not sure whether central forces were sent for area domination in Assam, Tamil Nadu or Kerala where polls would be held alongside Bengal. It is interesting that forces were sent soon after Union home minister Amit Shah told a rally in South 24-Parganas on Thursday that no Trinamul goon would be on the streets on the day of the polls,” said a minister.
Sources in the home department said usually central forces deployed for area domination undertake route marches to build confidence among people ahead of the polls.
“This is something unusual that forces would be deployed in all police districts. Usually, central forces are deployed in trouble-prone areas. It is unacceptable that the law and order is worse in all districts,” said another official.
The EC had earlier given hints that it was keeping a close watch on the law and order in Bengal as it had asked the district authorities to send detailed reports to the poll panel on a regular basis about two months ago.
“This was also something unusual. Now, deployment of 125 companies of central forces drops a clear hint that the EC has acted according to the memorandum of the BJP as it had demanded deployment of central forces at the earliest,” said a source.