Central troops for all Bengal poll booths in 2016 Assembly polls

Election Commission Kolkata review meet

By bappaditya paul

EACH and every polling booth in West Bengal will be manned by Central troops during the Assembly elections in the state next year and the state police shall have no role to play in the polling premises, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi said in Kolkata today.

This is to negate the possibility of bias on the part of the state police, an allegation that has been widespread in the civic and panchayat polls held in Bengal in recent times.

“There will be 100 per cent deployment of Central armed forces. We will ensure Central armed personnel in each and every booth. Central troops will also be engaged in area domination exercise; there will be at least 2/3 layers of security cover and arrangements to ensure that voters can come out and exercise their votes without fear,” Zaidi told a news conference this evening.

“The Election Commission and its observers drawn from outside the state, will supervise, deploy and monitor the booth-wise and personnel-wise deployment of the Central forces,” he said hinting at curtailing the role of district superintendents of police, who usually chalk out the deployment plan.

As of now, there are 77,000-odd polling booths in Bengal, and the number may go up by a few more hundreds when the ECI undertakes a booth rationalisation exercise early next year.

The three-member ECI full bench, comprising CEC Zaidi and Election Commissioners A K Jyoti and O P Rawat, was in Kolkata today holding the first review meeting for the Bengal Assembly elections tentatively scheduled for April-May next year.

Zaidi said that the Central troops would be sent to Bengal for the polls “well in advance.” Representatives of all the Opposition political parties, who called on the ECI bench at the Lalit Great Eastern Hotel in central Kolkata during the day, demanded that Central troops be sent to West Bengal at least two months in advance.

Faced with barrage of complaints of bias against several bureaucrats and senior police officers in the state, the CEC made it clear that ECI has zero tolerance for such tendency.

“All officers in the state, who will be involved in the election process, have been asked to be fair and impartial,” he said adding that, ECI would review the performance and track records of bureaucrats and senior police officers in Bengal at a later stage to ensure that no biased officers are involved in the poll process.

Zaidi informed that around 31 lakh people had applied for enrolment of names in the voter list in Bengal in the annual roll revision and 26 lakh of them have been accepted.

“The applicants who have been rejected for want of valid documents etc will be able to seek redress once the final roll is published on 05 January,” he said. The redress can be availed under the continuous update process of electoral roll at the DM or SDO offices.

(Bappaditya Paul is editor, NEWSMEN This report first appeared in the NEWSMEN on 10 December 2015.)

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