For the first time in a bypoll, all polling booths in UP have been handed over to central paramilitary forces (CPMF) — 213 companies in all — with deployment of state police forces, including PAC, to be arranged by CPMF commanding officers.
The Election Commission has decided that CPMF personnel will be deployed in the inner circle of polling booths where EVMs are placed while the civil police and PAC would be deployed at outer circle including entrance and surrounding areas of the polling station campus.
The EC has also deputed micro-observers, belonging to central government departments, at each polling booth. It has set up 3,556 polling centres in 11 Assembly seats and one Lok Sabha seat of Mainpuri that are going to poll Saturday.
The Mainpuri Lok Sabha constituency include five Assembly segments and has 1,929 polling booths there.
The Assembly seats going to poll on Saturday include Saharanpur (377 polling booths), Noida (461), Bijnor (346), Thakurdawara (339), Nighasan (324), Lucknow East (364), Hamirpur (403), Charkhari (379), Sirathu (336), Balha (341) and Rohaniya (340 polling booths).
“The EC had deployed central forces at selected sensitive polling stations in earlier bypolls. But this is for the first rime that each of 3,556 polling centres would have central forces,” said UP Chief Electoral Officer Umesh Sinha.
Besides webcast of 176 highly sensitive polling booths, Sinha said, video-recording and photography will be done on every polling booth.
Sources said the EC had earlier conducted a survey of all the constituencies and found nearly 390 polling stations to be sensitive. Of these, 200 are in Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat alone.
BJP had requested the EC to deploy central forces in Mainpuri and other Assembly seats to ensure free and fair elections.
When asked if the CPMF was being deployed on all seats following complaints of BJP, Sinha said, “Deployment of central forces is subject to their availability. As byelections are being held on few seats in some states only and forces were available, they are being deployed at every polling booth.”
Sources, however, said: The EC had taken cognizance of a list of sensitive polling booths that BJP had provided it from all the seats going to bypolls. The EC had sent observers later for on-the-spot inspection.
For better monitoring of the polling process, the EC has reduced the area of sectors in each constituency and sector magistrates are being deployed in each sector. In past elections, around 8 to 10 polling booths would fall in one sector. “Now each sector will have only three to 6 polling booths so that sector magistrate could reach any booth in 15-30 minutes,” Sinha said.