Shinde promises central forces for panchayat polls
The Centre has agreed to provide paramilitary forces to Bengal for next month’s panchayat elections after CM Mamata Bannerjee sought Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s intervention.kolkata Updated: Jun 12, 2013 11:04 IST
The Centre has agreed to provide paramilitary forces to Bengal for next month’s panchayat elections after CM Mamata Bannerjee sought Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s intervention.
The home ministry had earlier told the state government that it would not be able to spare additional central forces for the panchayat elections.
Shinde, however, overruled this view after speaking to Banerjee on Monday. “Yes, it (central forces) will be given to them (Bengal),” Shinde said.
The home minister said he had requested the chief minister to send a formal proposal and tell chief secretary Sanjay Mitra to discuss the request with the home secretary.“I’ve already instructed the home secretary to give the forces,” Shinde said.
Home ministry sources, however, indicated that the Centre could spare only a limited number of forces. “That assessment is being made, but it may not be anywhere close to the demand of 300 companies,” a source said.
Each company has a sanctioned strength of about 130 personnel. “That’s more than the total number of central forces deployed in Bihar to fight Naxalites.”
But, even if the Centre sends 300 companies which Bengal requested for, there will still be a shortfall of about 40,000 men. While the state requires about 1.18 lakh armed police personnel during the first phase of the polls, it has mustered only 48,000 of its own. This will leave a shortfall of about 70,000, out of which the paramilitary forces may bridge 30,000. The state government approached at least seven states for borrowing their armed police. But all efforts had drawn a blank until Tuesday.
On the other hand, the State Election Commission is concerned with the “abnormally high” percentage of seats which have been won uncontested in the first phase. On an average, around 14% of the seats in the three tiers — gram panchayat, panchayatsamity and zilla paris had — have remained uncontested.
“We’re concerned about some of the districts, such as Burdwan, Bankura, West Midnapore and Hooghly, where the percentage is much higher than the average. Complaints are also pouring in from Birbhum and Cooch Behar,” a senior official said.
SEC sources said 2003 had seen the maximum number of seats being won uncontested. The figure was around 7,000. In 2013, more than 5,000 seats have been won uncontested so far. The number is likely to rise and may even cross 7,000 as the last date of withdrawing nomination for the third phase is June 17.