The most difficult part of the five-phase election process has ended. And India’s security establishment is heaving a sigh of relief.
From terrorists crossing over from Pakistan to Naxals in the red corridor determined to create trouble, the world’s largest democratic exercise was also India’s most threatened elections.
“Yes, it didn’t turn out to be as bad as many of us had feared,” admitted an intelligence officer in Delhi of the election that had been held in the shadow of last November’s Mumbai terror attacks and intelligence reports that there could be more trouble.
But it wasn’t easy. Or cheap.
More than 40 securitymen were killed during the period trying to ensure that voters could go to polling booths. Another 21 civilians also died.
“During the entire election process, 65 casualties were reported…We lost 22 personnel,” said Ajay Chaturvedi, spokesman for the CRPF. Most of the casualties took place in Naxal-affected Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
Moving nearly one lakh security personnel from one part of the country to another itself was a logistical nightmare when time was at a premium.
Like when P.M. Nair, Inspector General, CRPF, who was designated as the Chief Forces Coordinator, had to airlift nearly 8,000 personnel from Agartala and Imphal to West Bengal in Air India and IAF planes, he figured they would waste too much time trying to fly around Bangladesh.
Nair and the Home Ministry took up the issue with the foreign affairs ministry, which convinced Dhaka to permit them to take the shorter route by flying over Bangladesh airspace.