Kolkata: Armed forces start route march, sound poll bugle | Kolkata News


KOLKATA: Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) marched on city streets at several places on Saturday — 25 days ahead of the first phase of Lok Sabha polls — sending out signals that the Election Commission (EC) has taken the law-and-order issue quite seriously.

Kolkata Police top brass indicated that BSF personnel will be patrolling in two shifts in the city, each lasting four hours — between 9am and 1pm in the first half and again from 5pm to 9pm in the evening. “We might make special deployment depending on the ground situation,” said a senior police officer.

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State officials had a tough time explaining to deputy election commissioner Sudeep Jain the steps they had taken for a free-and-fair election. District magistrates and SPs of many districts, particularly Birbhum, Bankura and Uttar Dinajpur, came under fire from the EC for “poor vulnerability mapping” of districts. Jain asked the police to execute pending arrest warrants across the state, including in Kolkata, by a day. CAPF will be deployed in all the 760 sensitive polling booths in the city, spread over mainly in two Lok Sabha constituencies — Kolkata Uttar and Jadavpur.

Later, the deputy election commissioner held a meeting with the chief secretary, the home secretary and the DGP to take stock of the poll preparedness. The commissioner told state officials to scrutinise the complaints from individuals and political parties and take appropriate action to help people come out for voting. The election official also heard out a delegation of intellectuals — Abhiroop Sarkar, Subhaprasanna, Subodh Sarkar, Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri and Arindam Sil — who argued that some people were trying to blemish Bengal by projecting a scary picture of the state. Trinamool Mahila Congress, led by minister Chandrima Bhattacharya, has launched a two-day dharna to build pressure on the EC.

However, the Opposition — BJP, Congress and Left — insisted on declaring all the 78,000 polling booths as “super sensitive” while narrating their bitter experience of the 2018 rural polls, in which “candidates couldn’t file their nominations”.

The deputy election commissioner has taken note of it and has asked the district administration to put the proposed route march of the central forces on the government website. He also took exception to the Malda district election officer’s unilateral decision to shift counting centres elsewhere without prior consultation with political parties.

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