Rejecting the State Election Commissioner’s request for deployment of central forces in the upcoming civic polls, the central government on Wednesday told the state government that it was unable to provide the necessary force as they have been deployed at other sensitive areas.
“I have received a letter from the state government which said that the Centre had written to them about the unavailability of central forces because the force have been deployed at other states and also at Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected areas,” said SEC Susanta Ranjan Upadhyaya.
He had earlier said that it would not be possible to conduct elections in a peaceful manner without central forces and had asked for 50 companies of central force for Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) election on April 18 and 100 companies for other 91 municipalities on April 25.
“Since they had said in clear terms that it wasn’t possible to send central forces, we will have to make do with the available state forces. I will hold a meeting with authorities here to ascertain what number of forces are available and how to conduct the polls with them,” Upadhyaya said.
He added that breaking the polls into phases at 91 municipalities was out of the question since the notification had already been issued in this regard.
Upadhyaya admitted that the presence of central forces would have instilled confidence among voters and also kept sensitive booths secured from disturbances.
Meanwhile, in reply to the SEC’s letter, the Kolkata Police informed that over 50 per cent of the polling booths were sensitive, police sources said. Upadhyaya said he was yet to go through the letter.
Voting for the KMC elections would be held in as many as 4,704 booths at 1,516 premises, while people would cast their votes in 13,460 booths at 5,467 premises in rest of Bengal.
BJP leaders who had earlier asked for deployment of central forces blamed the state for delayed action. Siddharth Nath Singh, BJP national secretary and Bengal observer, said, “I want to ask the state that when it had refused to bring in any central forces, then why this sudden change of mind? There is a lot of planning which goes in before the deployment of central forces. The sources need to be re-deployed and the process should begin two months ahead of the polls. You can’t just ask for central forces in the eleventh hour like this. This move by the state government of agreeing to bring in the central forces at the last hour is just an eyewash.”