83 Companies Of Central Forces In Bengal Polls First Phase

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Kolkata: As many as 83 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) along with adequate number of state police personnel, mobile patrolling units and Quick Response Teams are being deployed in West Bengal’s two Lok Sabha seats, which will vote in the first phase of 2019 polls on Thursday, a top police official said.

The Cooch Behar Lok Sabha seat with roughly 1.8 crore voters, has 2,010 polling stations while Alipurduar, in the foothills of north Bengal, has a 1.64 crore strong electorate and 1,834 polling stations.

Both the districts have got a thick security cover, with both national and international borders sealed, in tune with the Election Commission’s promise to take adequate “measures” to conduct free and fair polls.

However, the long-standing demand of the state’s opposition parties to deploy central force troopers in all polling stations might not get addressed in the first phase of polling, as according to senior officers, paramilitary personnel will be deployed only in the booths identified as “critical”.

“A total of 83 companies of CAPF will be deployed in the two seats for the first phase of polling. State police force will also be deployed in adequate numbers. Both the police forces will help each other in guarding the booths and the polling premises. The state police also have a role to play,” Central police observer for West Bengal Vivek Dubey told.

“The state police force will also do a good job. CAPF personnel will be deployed in all the critical booths. The areas will be covered by mobile patrolling teams and Quick Response Teams. They will be frequently monitoring the areas,” he said.

Cooch Behar’s new Superintendent of Police Amit Kumar Singh, who took charge on Tuesday after the EC shunted out Abhishek Gupta just two days before the polls, said 47 companies of central forces will be deployed in the district for Thursday’s election.

He said out of 2,010 polling stations in the constituency, close to 700 have been identified as critical where CAPF personnel will take charge of security.

“We are trying to accommodate the central forces in as many booths as possible. Out of 2,010 booths, close to 700 booths have been identified as critical. 45 companies of CAPF personnel will be deployed in those booths. One company will be in the district strong room and another will be with the Quick Response Team.

“I have been posted here before. So at least I am familiar with the topography. Let’s see what I can do. I will try my level best. The most important thing now is the deployment of central force and state police force in all polling stations. Our aim is to hold tomorrow’s (Thursday’s) election in a free and fair manner,” he added.

Dubey said 36 companies would be deployed in Alipurduar, of which 22 have been already pressed into service.

The Cooch Behar district, that is set to witness a four pronged battle between state’s ruling Trinamool Congress, the BJP, the Left and the Congress, saw large-scale demonstrations by poll officials demanding deployment of central forces at every polling booths a few days back.

State government employees and teachers engaged for Lok Sabha election duties said that are apprehensive about their security ever since poll official Rajkumar Ray’s body was found on train track near north Bengal’s Raiganj station during last year’s Panchayat election.

Similar protests sprung up in Alipurduar but the district administration issued a press note directing all the assigned personnel to take part in poll duty and warned stern action against those unwilling.