Treading with caution to ensure free and fair assembly elections in Gujarat, the Election Commission (EC) on Monday declared almost 40% polling stations in the state as "sensitive", requiring special security and administrative arrangements during voting on December 13 and December 17.
"There is a total of 44,579 polling stations across the state of which nearly 40% have been marked as sensitive and vulnerable, based on categories like communal, anti-social, higher use of money and muscle power," chief election commissioner (CEC) VS Sampath told mediapersons after a two-day visit undertaken by him and his team to review poll preparations in the state.
"Each such booth will be guarded by paramilitary forces and nobody will be allowed inside a booth except those on duty (and voters)," Sampath said.
Most of the communally sensitive areas identifiedby the EC are in eight districts - Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Bharuch, Kutch, Rajkot, Junagadh and Godhara.
"Having reviewed the situation with holding meetings with the district collectors, SPs, income tax officials and other agencies, we have found that the main concerns are likely use of money power, inducements and paid news," the CEC said.
To tackle the menace of money power, the EC has roped in income tax authorities, which in coordination with the police and civil officials, have been keeping tabs on cash transactions and movements.
The Congress submitted a memorandum to the EC alleging that the state administration was still taking orders from the chief minister's office instead of the EC and that chief minister Narendra Modi is trying to misuse the government machinery to create communal polarisation ahead of the elections.
The party urged the EC to remove "BJP sympathisers" from poll duty.
BJP leader Amit Shah said his party had "raised the issue of releasing irrigation water for agricultural crops which was stopped by the Election Commission."