CRPF personnel arriving for the upcoming Bengal elections, at the Chitpur Rail Yard in Kolkata on Saturday. (ANI)
CRPF personnel arriving for the upcoming Bengal elections, at the Chitpur Rail Yard in Kolkata on Saturday. (ANI)

TMC seeks deployment of additional central armed forces in Bengal

The Election Commission has presently deployed around 684 companies of central forces that would guard 10,288 polling booths housed in 7,061 premises.
By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Joydeep Bose
UPDATED ON MAR 26, 2021 05:30 PM IST

The Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Friday sent a letter to the Chief Electoral Officer of West Bengal, seeking deployment of additional central armed forces in the state ahead of the assembly elections. This, the TMC said, was needed since the existing central troops are inadequate to counter the "considerable violence planned by the BJP" during the polls.

The letter, signed by TMC leaders Derek O'Brien and Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, also alleges that BJP's Nandigram candidate Suvendu Adhikari has been "harbouring armed criminals, who are also non-residents of Nandigram" inside the constituency.

More than 73 lakh voters in West Bengal will decide the fate of 191 candidates across 30 assembly segments, most of which are in the once-Naxal- affected Jungle Mahal region, as the state goes to the polls in the first phase on Saturday. The Election Commission has presently deployed around 684 companies of central forces that would guard 10,288 polling booths housed in 7,061 premises, PTI reported, adding that tight security during the elections is to be expected.

However, alleging that the existing deployment of armed forces is inadequate to meet potential poll violence in a few areas, the TMC highlights two specific issues as primary "inputs" that the party received and shared with the local police.

The first such issue is the urgent deployment of additional central forces. The TMC named distinct regions — Kanthi (Uttar & Dakshin), Bhagabanpur, Khejuri, Egra, Ramnagar, and Palashpur — that the party believes will face BJP's "planned violence" on the day preceding the poll as well as during the polling days. The party points out that deployment of central armed forces on part of the Election Commission (EC) in these areas is "significantly less". This, the TMC alleged, could be due to three factors — "failure of local intelligence collection", "ignoring local intelligence", or "deliberate avoidance [of said input] to blatantly favour the BJP".

The second issue is regarding BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari allegedly harbouring "armed criminals" in Nandigram, a matter that the TMC has been raising for a while now. The party provided a list of nine locations, complete with the names of the owners of these residences, where such "outsiders" and "armed criminals" are believed to have put up. In an earlier letter to the EC, the TMC had named four locations, including a two-storeyed house on the Reyapara Hospital lane near Nandigram, where 30-40 "outsiders" from Kolaghat, Pingla, and Kanthi in the neighbouring districts were allegedly terrorising locals in the town.

Nandigram will witness the most high-profile contest of West Bengal elections, with chief minister Mamata Banerjee taking on her former ministerial colleague Suvendu Adhikari, who had joined BJP in December last year. Adhikari had earlier said that the BJP will defeat Banerjee by over 50,000 votes from Nandigram.

The polling in Nandigram will take place on April 1, in the second phase of the upcoming Assembly elections.

In the first phase slated for tomorrow, polling will take place amid strict COVID-19 guidelines in all nine seats in Purulia, four in Bankura, four in Jhargram and six in Paschim Medinipur, besides the seven seats in high-stakes Purba Medinipur -- Adhikari's home ground.

The final round of voting will take place on April 29. The counting of votes will be conducted on May 2.

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