No Central force for Bengal civic polls

BJP-LED UNION GOVT REFUSES TO SEND CENTRAL TROOPS

PACK UP: Central force jawans returning from a poll duty. File photo.
PACK UP: Central force jawans returning from a poll duty. File photo.

By bappaditya paul

THE UPCOMING CIVIC POLLS in Bengal will be held without Central forces as the Union government has declined to spare troops for the purpose.

Bengal state election commissioner Sushanta Ranjan Uapadhaya who in a letter to the state government on 6 April had stated that “effective polls” were not possible without Central troops, Wednesday sounded helpless in view of the Centre’s refusal.

He ruled out moving the High Court over the issue or postponing/splitting the elections into multiple phases. 

Bengal Home Secretary Basudev Banerjee communicated to the State Election Commission (SEC) about Centre’s refusal to send troops for the civic polls. He enclosed a copy of the Centre’s communiqué on this with his letter.  

Bengal Home Secretary Basudev Banerjee
Bengal Home Secretary Basudev Banerjee

The Centre has stated that a substantial number of troops are engaged in fighting Left Wing Extremists in several states and a huge number of troops are deployed to man international borders and for other crucial purposes.

Given this, “it has not been found feasible to send any additional CAPF for the civic polls in Bengal,” the communiqué read. CAPF is the abbreviated form for Central Armed Police Force.

The SEC had in mid-March requisitioned 50 companies of Central forces for the Kolkata Municipal Corporation polls on 18 April and another 100 companies for the elections in 91 more civic bodies in the state on 25 April.

The state government in turn wrote to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on 26 March, asking whether it would be able to spare troops for the civic polls but without specifying a number. MHA responded to this only on Tuesday but not before a reminder from the state last week. 

West Bengal state election commissioner S R Upadhaya
West Bengal state election commissioner S R Upadhaya

State election commissioner Mr Uapadhaya said that the poll panel would not move the High Court over Centre’s refusal.

“Going by the legal advice we have received, we can not move court as the cause of action for this does not lie with us. This is because we do not interact with the Centre directly but are always required to proceed via the state,” he said.

Mr Upadhaya said that the civic polls now would be conducted by deploying state police only.

The poll panel will hold a meeting later this week with the DGP, Home Secretary, Kolkata Police Commissioner and others to take stock of availability of police personnel and finalise the scale of deployment.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India.)

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