There is a slight change of role for a few Indian Police Service (IPS) officers in five states that go to polls in April-May this year.
Normally, the IPS officers look after the law and order in an election area, whereas the in-charge of overall election management are Indian Administrative Officers.
However, this year, the Election Commission has deputed IPS officers as election observers, for the first time in the last many years, to monitor and manage the elections.
"We have deputed a number of IPS officers in West Bengal, where managing law and order will be an integral part of overall election management," said a senior election commission official.
Several districts in West Bengal such as Midnapore are naxal-affected. The two major political parties in the state, CPI-M and Trinamool Congress, have also been involved in violent clashes in the recent past. "We have been sending IPS officers to West Bengal even before elections were announced to access overall law and order situation and suggest necessary action," the official said.
The idea behind posting IPS officers as central election observers was to check the use of muscle power in elections, prevent any attempt to capture booths and help in deployment of Central Police Force being provided to the state chief electoral officers.
According to the commission's circular, an election observer has to provide inputs to the returning officers on how to conduct the elections in a fair manner; redress local grievances and ensure that the candidates follow the model code of conduct and electoral rules.
Although the maximum number of IPS officers, 21, have been posted as election observers in West Bengal, the commission has also deputed five IPS officers in Tamil Nadu, especially for Madurai — the bastion of DMK leader K Alagiri. They will also monitor elections in Chennai, Salem and Tiruchy.
Of the 1,000 observers appointed, the majority are IAS officers drawn from the Central and the state governments, which are not going to poll.
Apart from them, the commission has also appointed Indian Revenue Service officers as expenditure observers.
They will work in close tandem with the expenditure wing of the commission and will have powers to seek details of the special bank accounts the candidates are required to open for contesting the elections.
Chief election commissioner SY Quraishi said the role of observers were important, as they were the eyes and ears of the commission. All observers are required to submit daily report to the commission's central control room for elections.