November 11, 2021 5:25:39 am
There will be no central forces for the upcoming municipal elections in Kolkata and Howrah. According to sources in the State Election Commission, it decided that the polls will be conducted with the help of the state police and not central forces during talks with the state government.
A senior official of State Election Commission said, “We will have plenty of police personnel during the municipal elections. Every booth will be guarded by armed police personnel. Hence, there’s no need for central forces. As of now, there’s no plan to deploy central force personnel and neither has the state government received any requisition to that effect.”
However, Opposition parties have already put forward the demand that the civic polls be held under the watchful eyes of the central forces. The BJP state leadership has moved the Calcutta High Court, urging its intervention to ensure free and fair elections. Speaking to The Indian Express, BJP state vice-president Pratap Banerjee said, “We have serious apprehensions that the civic elections will not be free and fair if held under the supervision of the state police and administration. We still have memories of the 2018 panchayat polls where many people could not vote, and Opposition candidates were threatened and beaten up by Trinamool Congress supporters. We don’t want a rerun of the same.”
Other Opposition forces such as the CPM and the Congress also spoke in favour of holding the municipal polls under the supervision of central para-force personnel. However, despite the Opposition raising a chorus for central forces, the state government is unwilling to yield to this demand.
A senior state official told this newspaper, “Sizeable contingents of central forces were deployed in the last Assembly elections. We had to bear the expenses for their deployment, but they didn’t make any difference to the outcome of the polls. Moreover, we had an unsavoury incident like Sitalkuchi where four people died in CISF firing. Hence, we decided not to bear the unnecessary cost of central forces this time around. The state police is quite capable of ensuring free and fair polls.”
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