In a move unprecedented in West Bengal’s history, the Election Commission has dispatched a huge number of central security forces to the state ahead of the assembly election – despite the fact that poll dates are yet to be announced.
Around 125 companies – each with 80 to 100 personnel – will start streaming into the state this week to maintain law and order in the run-up to the election.
With 60 companies, the Central Reserve Police Force will provide the bulk of personnel. There will also be 30 companies from the Sashastra Seema Bal, 25 from the Border Security Force and five companies each from the Central Industrial Security Force and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police.
According to sources, the early deployment has come as a surprise to the state administration.
Is this unusual?
It is not unusual for central forces to be deployed – once the dates are announced. Their job involves area domination and providing security. About 30 companies were deployed after the dates of the 2016 assembly polls were announced. Similarly, around 40 companies were despatched in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
But by sending in so many personnel so early, the EC could be indicating it is not satisfied with the law and order situation in West Bengal. It could also mean the EC is not satisfied with the neutrality of the state administration.
Accusations fly back and forth
As political violence has increased, both the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the BJP have traded charges. BJP president JP Nadda’s convoy was recently attacked – allegedly by TMC cadres.
BJP writes to state CEO
The BJP, meanwhile, has written a letter to the state chief election officer saying the government should be prevented from using contractual staff for election duties.
The party has also said the EC must prevent the state from misusing central forces by deploying them only in cities and along highways.
The letter was written by BJP leader Shishir Bajoria and Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta.
“It has come to our notice that contractual staff have been registered at district level, as Group D staff, to perform the function of polling officers in the forthcoming assembly elections. This step is highly irregular, as these are not regular government employees and hence are not answerable to anyone. In the event of any complaint against them, there will be no scope of any recourse,” the letter said.
“If there is a shortage of polling officers, the election commission may requisition polling officers from neighbouring states to ensure free and fair polls.”