Kolkata: The Election Commission arranged for an emergency meeting through video conference at 3pm on Thursday to discuss about the measures to be taken to ensure free and fair poll in the upcoming fifth phase of the Bengal assembly polls.
The CEO and other officials were present in the video conference. The EC decided to deploy 680 companies, more than 61,000 personnel of the paramilitary forces in order to ensure the smooth voting on April 30. Along with it, 16,000 state police personnel will assist the central forces. This is the most crucial round of all the phases where 53 seats will contest for the election.
The EC has set a record of sorts in these elections by bringing in over 800 companies of paramilitary forces for the six-phase poll process.
In the 4th phase, the EC had won praises from the opposition parties for the manner in which it conducted the polls, keeping out trouble-makers from anywhere near polling booths. Even heavyweight ministers and ruling party leaders were not allowed to venture near the polling stations.
However, the security detail for April 30 will surpass anything seen so far. For the four seats in Kolkata South — Bhawanipore, Ballygunge, Rashbehari and Kolkata Port — the EC has decided to field 109 companies of central forces (nearly 10,000 personnel) apart from 6,000 state policemen.
In Hooghly, there will be 238 companies of central forces deployed along with 8,500 personnel from the state police. In sensitive South 24-Parganas district, as many as 333 companies of central forces will be assisted by 1,500 state policemen. There are 31 seats in this trouble prone district. State police personnel will not be permitted to enter polling stations that will be exclusively manned by the central forces.
On Tuesday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee questioned the unprecedented security bandobast for the April 30 round. At an election rally at Bhangar, the CM said that this amounted to harassing voters. “The poll panel is doing exactly what the opposition is demanding,” Mamata said.
The voter turnout has been impressive this time, with the figure exceeding the 80% mark in many rounds. This is attributed to the elaborate security arrangements that created an atmosphere devoid of fear.