Cooch Behar and Alipurduar are the two constituencies in West Bengal that will vote on Thursday under the first phase of the seven-leg Lok Sabha polls, as voters hope for a peaceful election amid tight security.
As many as 83 companies of central forces have been deployed in the two constituencies. Police superintendent of Cooch Behar was removed 48 hours before the polls. Special police observer Vivek Dube visited Cooch Behar and held a meeting with the new SP and other officials on Wednesday.
As many as 18,10,660 people are eligible to cast their vote in Cooch Behar and 16,43,616 in Alipurduar.
“Forty-seven companies have been deployed in Cooch Behar. The remaining (36) are in Alipurduar. In Cooch Behar, 760 polling stations will have static posting of central forces,” Special Police Observer Vivek Dube told The Indian Express.
“Online casting will be done in 533 polling stations which will not be manned with central forces,” said Additional CEO Sanjay Basu.
“Our aim is to ensure a free and fair poll… Forty-five companies of central forces will be placed at critical booths, while one company will be stationed in the strong room and one for patrolling,” said Amit Kumar Singh, the new SP of Cooch Behar.
As many as 1,153 booths in Cooch Behar will be manned by central forces and 814 booths in Alipurduar. The state police force in Cooch Behar and Alipurduar will be placed at 857 and 1,020 booths. These two seats account have 3,844 booths, said polls officials.
Meanwhile, in Cooch Behar, leaders from the BJP, Forward Bloc and Congress met the special police observer and demanded central forces at all booths.
“We stated that in areas which witnessed in previous polls, central forces have not been deployed… We had earlier submitted a report to the EC in this regard. The areas with presence of central forces are not adequate. There is fear among voters and this needs to be addressed,” said Forward Bloc candidate Gobindo Roy.
BJP candidate Nisith Pramanik said central forces have not been deployed to rural areas which are prone to violence.
Streets both the constituencies were deserted by evening – at a time when Chaitra sale (an annual sale given by shops before the Poila Baishak Bengali new year) is expected to draw huge crowds.
In Coochbehar town, roads which even yesterday saw huge crowds, wore a deserted look. By evening, most vehicles were off the road.
“Everyone is keeping their fingers crossed. We have seen violence during the panchayat polls. Since the fight between the TMC and BJP is neck and neck, people expect more violence. I have decided to return home early,” said Santosh Pramanik, a resident of Dinhata.
“God knows what will happen tomorrow. I will try and cast my vote early morning. Usually trouble starts in the afternoon,” said Somnath Dutta, a resident of Pundibari. Central forces conducted area domination in some parts of Cooch Behar.