TMC, BJP meet Election Commission of India officials : Spar over booth security

A delegation of senior TMC leaders met with officials of the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Friday, objecting to its reported decision to not deploy state police within 100 metres of polling booths.

On the other hand, the BJP on Friday made multiple representations before the EC seeking deployment of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) inside polling booths with the added mandate of voter ID verification, citing instances of violence in the state.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that free, fair and transparent elections in the state of West Bengal is becoming a distant reality. This is evident from the partisan and biased approach taken by the ECI in respect of the ongoing elections in the state,” said the letter, which was signed by TMC MPs Derek O Brien, Saugata Roy and Mahua Moitra as well as former BJP leader and Union minister Yashwant Sinha, who recently joined the party.

The party took umbrage over media reports of an ECI decision that state police personnel would not be allowed within 100 metres of polling stations.

“It has been reported in the media that the ECI has decided to not permit the presence of state police within 100 metres 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,” the letter states.

Sources in the ECI told The Indian Express that it has not prohibited the state police’s presence but rather, the instruction is meant for the civic police, who are civic volunteers who are deployed in aid of the state police. They do not have legal police powers but aid in maintenance of order and traffic control usually.

The second issue raised by the TMC was a demand of the tally of all VVPAT machines, which they claimed have been “summarily dismissed… allegedly on account of the Supreme Court of India decision in March 2019”.

“It may be noted that the very purpose of installing VVPAT machines are considerable cost has deliberately been made redundant and ineffective. We may remind you, that not only was the said judgement primarily meant for the 2019 general elections but that the law insists that every time EVMs are used, there must be a sui generis consideration of facts, circumstances and necessities,” the letter states.

The BJP, meanwhile, complained to the poll panel against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, alleging that she had used “unparliamentary language” against Home Minister Amit Shah in a public rally in Bankura on March 16. Alleging that it was in violation of the Model Code of Conduct, the party requested the election commission to “censure” Banerjee and take appropriate legal action against her.

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In a memorandum, the BJP told the EC that there has been “rampant misuse of state machinery and bureaucracy” by the TMC members. Hence, the party said: “It is imperative that Central Forces are deployed at the polling booths for the impartial conduct of Assembly elections.”

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