On Saturday, around 12 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) reached West Bengal in light of the upcoming State Legislative elections.
As per reports, 2 companies of CAPF arrived in Durgapur while 4 companies reached Chitpore in Kolkata today. Besides, another 5 companies of CAPF arrived in Dankuni in Howrah while 1 company came to Burdwan. They will then be deployed to their assigned areas. Reportedly, senior officials of the West Bengal police and CRPF were present at the railway station on the arrival of the central forces.
Earlier, the Election Commission had informed that a total of 125 companies of central forces will be deployed in the State by February 25. The CAPF deployment will include 30 companies of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), 60 companies of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), 5 companies of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), 25 companies of the Border Security Force (BSF) and 5 companies of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF).
The early deployment of the Central Forces, even before the declaration of the polling dates, maybe an indication by the Election Commission that they are not happy with the law and order situation in the State. An official informed, “The idea to deploy central forces now is to ensure that there is no problem when campaigning for the elections starts. This deployment is also to build the confidence of the voters. Stress will be on area domination by the forces, especially in the sensitive zones.”
BJP urges EC to prevent State govt from using contractual staff from poll duty
The BJP had urged the poll body to deploy central forces in the state ahead of the assembly elections, due to large scale political violence in the state. In a letter to the West Bengal Chief Election Officer, Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta and BJP leader Shishir Bajoria had said, “It has come to our notice that contractual staff have been registered at district level, as Group D staff, to perform the function of polling officers in the forthcoming assembly elections. This step is highly irregular, as these are not regular government employees and hence are not answerable to anyone. In the event of any complaint against them, there will be no scope of any recourse.”
They further added, “If there is a shortage of polling officers, the Election Commission may requisition polling officers from neighbouring states to ensure free and fair polls. There will be no point served if the central forces are made to make route marches in national and state highways and are kept away from sensitive areas.”
Election Commission takes steps to ensure fair elections in West Bengal
Opposition parties in West Bengal have raised concerns about the ‘neutrality’ of the State police, often accused of working as ‘party cadres’ of the ruling Trinamool Congress. The state government has however assured the Election Commission of upholding the law and order situation in West Bengal. Reportedly, the nodal election body will monitor the polls by deploying a special police observer, as it did in 2019 General Elections. At the same time, the number of polling stations will also be increased in light of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora had earlier said that the election body has zero-tolerance for money power, muscle power and misuse of the government machinery. As observed during the last year’s Bihar polls, police personnel will not be deployed in the area where they serve or are registered as voters. Experts are of the view that the Election Commission wants to disrupt the underlying connections between the police and the local leaders of the incumbent political dispensation.