The poll panel is mulling a proposal by its special observers in Bengal that a 100 metre zone around polling booths be manned only by central forces. And only central forces would man the booths.
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In its memorandum to EC, Trinamool said: “On the first count, it has been reported in the media that the ECI has decided to not permit the presence of State police within 100 m of polling stations and only deploy Central Forces in such an arena. If true, this decision is unprecedented and casts severe aspersions on the reputation of the police administration in the State of West Bengal.”
Emphasising that the poll panel’s decision was only for Bengal and not for the other four poll-bound states, TMC said central forces should be deployed to help the state government deal with law and order and “not deliberately demonise the state police personnel”.
“Propriety demands that there should be proper coordination between the State and Central forces to ensure free and fair elections and that combined groups of both State and Central Police forces be deployed within 100 m of the polling booths,” the Trinamool letter said.
The party’s parliamentary delegation, including Saugata Roy, Yashwant Sinha, Md Nadimul Haque, Pratima Mondal and Mahua Moitra, described EC’s approach as “biased”.
Additional chief electoral officer (CEO) Sanjay Basu said: “It has come to our notice in a news item that there will be no state police within 100 metre radius of the booths. There is no such order from EC. I am not speaking about booths but 100 metre radius of booths. I have not said about it. We will work as per directives of EC.”
Later, a BJP team comprising M A Naqvi, Bhupender Yadav, Debasree Chaudhuri, Anil Baluni and Om Pathak met the poll panel at Nirvachan Sadan. Chaudhuri said: “We also apprised EC on the issue of central forces. We wanted EC to ensure that central forces remain in the polling booths. We left it to EC to take an appropriate decision.”
The BJP delegation also urged the poll panel for a detailed report on the March 10 Nandigram incident, for which, it said, the Bengal CM was repeatedly “blaming the BJP”.
Campaigning in East Midnapore, Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh questioned the role of state police during elections. “They (Trinamool) did not let people file nominations for panchayat elections or cast votes.”
TMC MP Moitra said: “We met the EC and raised three points — the rule under which they are proposing to put only central forces within 100 metres of a polling booth, only 5% of VVPAT checking instead of 100%, and the incident involving the attack on the chief minister on March 10.”