Deployment of central forces in Bengal to be monitored by ECI observers: CEC
The deployment and movement of central forces in West Bengal before and during the Lok Sabha polls will be totally monitored by the Election Commission of India (ECI) appointed police observers, chief election commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora said in Kolkata on Friday.
The decision was taken on the second day of a two-day visit by the full bench of the poll panel during which they held meetings with representatives of the political parties, district chiefs of police, the chief secretary, home secretary and director general of police.
“We met representatives from different political parties, most of whom requested for effective use of central forces to ensure free and fair polls. We have decided that deployment and movement of central forces in Bengal before and during Lok Sabha polls will be totally monitored by the ECI-appointed police observers or nodal observers, all of whom would be out of Bengal,” Arora said.
On Thursday leaders of opposition parties told ECI officials that central forces on poll duty are often seen away from the scene of action, even sipping tea at roadside stalls when trouble takes place somewhere else. The control of these forces are usually vested with the superintendents of police of the districts.
“Different political parties also insisted that these forces should not just conduct route march and area domination just on the main roads and should not deployed only in polling booths. They should ensure that there is no intimidation of voters or supporters of any political party. We have assured them that central forces will conduct route march and area domination exercise even in the remotest corners of the state,” Arora added.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee refused to be drawn into any controversy on the matter. “We have full respect for institutions like the ECI. Therefore, I would not like to comment on what the chief election commissioner has said,” she remarked.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders welcomed the decision. “This is a welcome decision. Hope it will prevent a situation like the one we saw during the panchayat polls where the violence started much before the election date,” said Dilip Ghosh, the BJP Bengal unit president.
Indirectly admitting that the poll-related scenario in Bengal is different from other states, the CEC remarked that the emotion quotient of the people of Bengal is high.
“But the problem arises when emotions are channelised in the election process. But this time ECI will take strict action if there is an attempt to channelise emotions in the poll process,” quipped the CEC.
Arora also said that they have sought an explanation from the home secretary for the absence of Kolkata Police commissioner Rajeev Kumar at the meeting with the poll panel on Thursday.
Instead of Kumar, the special commissioner of police (II), Jayanta Basu attended the meeting. Though he was absent from the meeting, Kumar was seen at the inaugural function of Kolkata Book Fair on Thursday where the chief minister was present.