770 Companies Central Force In Phase Six LS Poll In WB

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Kolkata: The Election Commission has decided to deploy central forces at all 15,428 booths in Bengal’s eight Lok Sabha constituencies that go to the polls on Sunday.

This marks a departure from an earlier plan under which 73 per cent of the booths were to be manned by central forces. The exception was Jhargram, where it had been decided earlier that all booths would get such cover.

“The change of plan comes after the poll panel ensured more central forces in the sixth phase. Earlier, 683 companies were to be deployed. Now, after a meeting with the Union home ministry, it will be 770 companies,” said a poll panel source.

Bankura, Bishnupur, Midnapore, Ghatal, Jhargram, Purulia, Tamluk and Contai will go to the polls on Sunday.

Sources said the Opposition, mainly the BJP, protested after the poll panel initially said all booths might not be guarded by central forces because of a shortage of jawans.

Special central police observer Vivek Dubey met Union home ministry officials a couple of days ago and told them more forces were needed for the sixth phase. In last year’s panchayat polls, the Opposition could not field candidates in districts like Bankura, and West and East Midnapore. “As the Centre agreed to send more forces, we can deploy central forces in all booths,” said a source.

The poll panel has issued an advisory for central forces to use bullet-proof jackets and helmets during Sunday’s polls in former Maoist dens in Bengal. The advisory follows blasts in rebel-infested areas of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Maharasthra in the elections.