Bengal recorded a high voter turnout during the first two stages of polling on April 11 and 18. However, there have been numerous cases of violence already.
Kolkata/New Delhi: In a ruling that is largely being considered as a setback for Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, the Election Commission has decided that the 92% of the security at polling stations will be managed by the Central forces. Earlier, the state police were providing security for these booths. In Bengal, five phases of elections are still to take place.
Bengal recorded a high voter turnout during the first two stages of polling on April 11 and 18. However, there have been numerous cases of violence already. During the first phase of polling, a video surfaced from Cooch Behar's Sitalkuchi area that showed alleged Trinamool men intimidating a couple who had come to vote. A Ram Navami procession of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) was attacked in Asansol that sparked off communal tensions and the Rapid Action Force (RAF) had to be called in.
During the second phase, the body of a BJP worker was found hanging from a tree in Purulia. The car of CPI(M) leader and sitting Raiganj MP Mohammed Salim was attacked at Islampur. Salim had visited the area on being informed about booth-capturing.
A television channel claimed to have exposed bogus voting in Bengal's Raiganj. Hindu voters in a pro-Trinamool village in the constituency were apparently stopped from voting.
Then, in Chopra that falls under the Darjeeling constituency, voters blocked the road, complaining of intimidation by Trinamool goons. They said that the state police were partial and demanded that the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) be deployed in all booths.
According to a report filed by the Special Observer of the Election Commission Ajay Nayak, the situation in Bengal is not good and one can compare it with what prevailed in Bihar 15 years ago. Nayak was earlier the chief electoral officer of Bihar.
Nayak added that the local people have lost faith in the police forces. The report is crucial in the current scenario as demand for the Central forces being posted at polling booths in Bengal has gained traction with every incident of electoral violence and proxy voting.
Nayak has recently been given the responsibility to supervise the last five phases of the general elections in Bengal. He made his statement in the presence of chief electoral officer Arij Aftab. Nayak informed that around 324 companies of Central forces will be present at the five Lok Sabha constituencies.
Recently, the Election Commission removed Malda’s Superintendent of Police Arnab Ghosh and put Ajay Prasad in his place. Earlier, the BJP had requested Ghosh to be removed, considering his closeness to the Mamata government.
Campaigning will have to stop in Balurghat, Malda North, Malda South, Jangipur and Murshidabad as these constituencies will go to polls in the next phase on April 23.
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Last Updated Apr 21, 2019, 4:34 PM IST