Lok Sabha elections 2019: More troops in next phase of Bengal polls
The Centre has sent an additional 30 companies of central paramilitary forces, each comprising 100 men, to West Bengal from Assam and other adjoining states for the last two phases of the ongoing general elections, a senior Ministry of Home Affairs official, who did not want to be named, said.
With the additional forces, the strength of paramilitary personnel in the state goes up to 750 companies or 75,000 – an unprecedented number.
The last five phases of elections in the state have been marked by violent political clashes, allegations of booth capturing, glitches in Electronic Voting Machines, with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the ruling Trinamool Congress approaching the Election Commission with multiple complaints.
On the May 12 – the penultimate round of elections – eight constituencies, including those in the former Maoist belt of Jangalmahal will vote.
“Considering that Jungle Mahal area is Maoist affected and poll violence reported from the state the additional companies are being rushed to instil confidence among the people,” a second senior ministry of home affairs official who did not want to be quoted said.
The 108 Commandants and 547 company commander sof the central forces are being briefed individually by senior officials to ensure violence-free polls.
In addition, heavily armed Quick Reaction Teams (QRTs) will be deployed to protect polling officers, candidates and Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), the second senior officer said.
Just before the last phase of polling on May 6, the Union home ministry had rushed an additional 50 companies to West Bengal.
“Of the 30 companies, some would reach West Bengal only in the last phase scheduled for May 19,” a second senior official who did not want to be named said.
The latest addition comes after an assessment of the Election Commission of India and the Union Home Ministry pointed to the requirement of troops for the last two phases of the elections In particular, the Centre is concerned about reports that local police, at places, haven’t followed orders.
“With additional forces, the dependence on local forces is likely to reduce,” a second senior MHA official said.
Deputy election commissioner Sudip Jain would go to Kolkata on May 12 and hold a high-level meeting the next day ahead of the last phase of elections, an official told a news agency.