A massive contingent of 41,000 paramilitary personnel will be deployed in politically crucial West Bengal during the remaining six phases of Lok Sabha polls in the state which has often seen violence during elections, officials said. This is the maximum number of central security forces ever deployed in the state for the general elections, they said.
Officials in the central security establishment said a “massive mobilisation” of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) is being made. The state sends 42 Lok Sabha MPs. Elections to two constituencies was held in phase one on April 11, while three seats will go to polls on Thursday in the second phase. The state will have seven-phase polls.
About 41,000 personnel drawn from the central pool, as part of 400 companies, will be deployed gradually in West Bengal till the last and seventh phase of voting on May 19, they said.
Officials said the build up in the numbers of the central forces is evident from the first phase of polls in the state when about 84 companies (nearly 100 personnel each) were deployed to conduct polls in two seats of Coochbehar and Alipurduar. For polls in three seats of Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling and Raiganj on Thursday, a total of 194 companies are being deployed.
Officials said the aim is to have “85-90 per cent” of the polling booths in the state under the cover of the central forces as a number of incidents of voters intimidation, booth attack and looting of EVMs have taken place in the state during the panchayat polls held last year and the assembly polls in 2016.
A number of polling booths have been declared sensitive from the point of view of violence and suspicion of distribution of poll inducements like liquor and cash, they said.
Reports state that while about 12-13 people were killed during the panchayat polls, over a dozen were injured and wide-scale violence during the last assembly elections in the state.
A large of chunk of the 400 companies will be drawn from the Central Reserve Police Force, Border Security Force, Sashastra Seema Bal, Central Industrial Security Force and Indian Reserve Battalions (IRBs) of different states, officials added.
Huge logistics and requisitioning of railway coaches, trucks and helicopter sorties are being arranged to send these forces, they said.
As the phases are getting over, the troops are being moved from one state to the other and maximum numbers are being sent to West Bengal, they said.
The Election Commission has appointed former Bihar Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Ajay V Nayak as special observer for West Bengal, while retired IPS officer Vivek Dubey has been sent to the state as a special police observer.
About 2.5 lakh central police forces are being deployed across the country for the Lok Sabha polls that began on April 11 and will end on May 19. The counting of votes is scheduled for May 23.