With barely 48 hours remaining before 53 constituencies in south Kolkata, Hooghly and South 24-Parganas go to polls on Saturday, the Election Commission has again started tightening its grip to ensure that the fifth round passes off peacefully.
While central forces started night patrols in the sensitive areas from Wednesday, the poll panel has almost doubled the number of central police observers in the city and the two districts.
Section 144 of CrPC, which regulates the assembly of five or more people in one place, will be enforced strictly in all the constituencies where polling will be held this time.
The poll panel had taken some unprecedented steps in the fourth phase when two crime-prone districts of south Bengal — Howrah and North 24-Parganas — went to polls on April 25. The result: There was no major violence or complaints from voters or political parties.
“Considering the sensitivity of some of the constituencies going to polls on Saturday, we have launched night patrol by central forces,” a senior official of the poll panel said.
The EC has issued orders that forces would move only on the orders of central police observers, who are senior IPS officers from other states deployed by the poll panel. They will patrol those areas which have a history of violence and have been a cause of concern for political parties.
“For this, we have increased the number of police observers. There will be three police observers in South 24-Parganas instead of one. In Kolkata and Hooghly, there will be two police observers each,” a senior poll panel official said.
A few OCs and an IPS officer of SDPO rank were removed from poll duty on Tuesday.
The fifth phase will witness the second-largest deployment of central forces in numbers compared to Phase III. While Phase III had seen more than 700 companies of central forces, Saturday’s round will see around 680 companies.
“They will also conduct patrols along rivers as there are some major rivers in South 24-Parganas and Hooghly. Borders have already been sealed and naka checking by both static and flying surveillance squads have been initiated,” the official said.