The penultimate phase of the assembly polls will virtually transform eastern Uttar Pradesh into a military state. To ensure the Naxals don’t spoil an election that has been free and fair so far, elite army commandos will swamp all Naxal-hit districts — especially Mirzapur, Sonebhadra and Chandauli — while Indian Air Force helicopters will carry out round-the-clock aerial surveillance.
This is presumably the first time the Election Commission has sought the services of the army to ensure incident-free polling. Even though the commission has already deployed 180 companies of the central paramilitary forces (CPMF), the army’s services have been sought in view of the heightened threat due to the Naxals’ poll boycott call. “The commandos will rush to site in case of any Naxal trouble,” additional chief electoral officer Mritunjay Kumar Narain said, adding that the commandos are currently stationed at Varanasi and “will stay there till all polling parties return to district headquarters by Thursday”.
Principal secretary, home, K. Chandramauli said the helicopters will be at the disposal of the Varanasi divisional commissioner.
Of the 52 constituencies in nine districts going to polls on Thursday, 11 are in Chandauli, Sonebhadra and Mirzapur. Narain said the CPMF deployed at the nearly 500 polling stations in these districts will also escort polling parties back to headquarters. Since the districts are close to the borders of Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, the poll panel has alerted these states to take the necessary precautionary measures.