The Election Commission (EC) has decided to deploy an unprecedented 680 companies — more than 61,000 personnel — of paramilitary forces for the smooth conduct of the fifth phase of polling in Bengal on April 30. Fifty-three seats will be up for grabs in that crucial round.
That’s not all. As many as 16,000 state police personnel will assist the central forces.
The EC has set a record of sorts in these elections by bringing in over 800 companies of paramilitary forces for the six-phase poll process.
In the 4th phase, the EC had won praises from the opposition parties for the manner in which it conducted the polls, keeping out trouble-makers from anywhere near polling booths. Even heavyweight ministers and ruling party leaders were not allowed to venture near the polling stations.
However, the security detail for April 30 will surpass anything seen so far. For the four seats in Kolkata South — Bhawanipore, Ballygunge, Rashbehari and Kolkata Port — the EC has decided to field 109 companies of central forces (nearly 10,000 personnel) apart from 6,000 state policemen.
In Hooghly, there will be 238 companies of central forces deployed along with 8,500 personnel from the state police.
In sensitive South 24-Parganas district, as many as 333 companies of central forces will be assisted by 1,500 state policemen. There are 31 seats in this troubleprone district. State police personnel will not be permitted to enter polling stations that will be exclusively manned by the central forces.
On Tuesday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee questioned the unprecedented security bandobast for the April 30 round. At an election rally at Bhangar, the CM said that this amounted to harassing voters. “The poll panel is doing exactly what the opposition is demanding,” Mamata said.
The voter turnout has been impressive this time, with the figure exceeding the 80% mark in many rounds. This is attributed to the elaborate security arrangements that created an atmosphere devoid of fear.