If the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal has its way, only one lathi-wielding policeman instead of three armed personnel recommended by the state election commission (SEC), will be deployed at each booth in the first phase of the coming panchayat polls in the state.
On an average a polling booth gets about 1,000 voters, an SEC official said.
The Mamata Banerjee government and the SEC are currently battling for supremacy over key decisions regarding the polls.
The SEC wants to hold the elections in three phases instead of the two fixed by the state government.
The SEC also wants central forces to be deployed during the polls in a state where political violence hits the headlines on a regular basis.
In response to the SEC’s call for deployment of 80,000 armed central forces personnel to ensure free and fair elections, the state government’s affidavit in the Calcutta high court says the state has the capacity to deploy about 55,000 of its police personnel across the two notified phases at 41,810 and 15,309 polling stations, respectively.
This roughly translates to three police personnel for each polling booth if central forces are deployed along with state police personnel and only one policeman or policewoman per booth if central forces are not deployed.
The government’s affidavit detailing why central forces should not be used contends that the atmosphere in the state is much better than it was during the previous panchayat elections held during the stewardship of the Left Front government in 2003 and 2008.