Rural polls: Bengal blinks, asks for Central forces | kolkata | Hindustan Times
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Rural polls: Bengal blinks, asks for Central forces

The Mamata Banerjee government finally blinked on Wednesday, seeking 300 companies of paramilitary forces from the Centre for the panchayat polls in West Bengal. The request came as the filing of nominations began for the first phase, which is to be held on July 2 across nine districts.

kolkata Updated: May 30, 2013 01:36 IST
HT Correspondent

The Mamata Banerjee government finally blinked on Wednesday, seeking 300 companies of paramilitary forces from the Centre for the panchayat polls in West Bengal. The request came as the filing of nominations began for the first phase, which is to be held on July 2 across nine districts.

Deployment of Central troops had been the bone of contention between the government and the state election commission, which led to a lengthy and bitter legal tussle. While the SEC had insisted that the troops were mandatory for free and fair polls, the government contended that the state police would suffice.

Panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee said although the state is still principally against the deployment of Central forces, it has compromised on this point to ensure that the election takes place. But though the government’s move ends the eyeball-to-eyeball contest, it is unlikely that the forces could be mustered on such a short notice.

Home secretary Basudeb Bandopadhyay indicated that the state does not expect the deployment of too many personnel from the Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF), which has the most experience in tackling elections and anti-Maoist operations.

Moreover, even if 300 companies of paramilitary forces can be had, it still leaves a shortfall of 400 companies, or 40,000 personnel. Additional director general law & order, Banibrata Basu said he was not sure from where the shortfall would be met. “Discussions are on with various agencies,” he said.

The first day of filing of nominations, meanwhile, was marred by reports of violence. Incidents of attack and intimidation of opposition candidates by the cadres of the ruling Trinamool Congress were reported from Burdwan, Bankura, South 24 Parganas, Howrah, West and East Midnapore.