Deploy central forces from notification day, demands Bengal opposition

Kolkata, Jan 22: Deputy Election Commissioner of India Vinod Zutshi Wednesday held an all-party meeting here with the opposition demanding that the Election Commission (EC) deploy central forces from the date of notification to create a conducive atmosphere for the Lok Sabha polls.

The ruling Trinamool Congress, however, said all elections have been free and fair since it came to power in 2011 and the coming polls would go the same way.

The opposition Communist Party of India-Marxist, which spearheads the Left Front, said the experience of the past two-and-half years has made it apprehensive of the polls being peaceful and proper.

“We only want a proper and peaceful election. But we are apprehensive, after what we have seen over the past two-and-a-half years. The administration has been highly partisan.

“There is need for deployment of central forces from the day of notification. The deployment of the forces should be decided by the observer, and not by the district magistrate or the police superintendent,” CPI-M state secretariat member Rabin Deb said after the meeting.

Congress leader Manas Bhuniya accused the Trinamool leaders in various parts of the state of speaking the language of violence.

“They are saying they will chop off wrists, hands. During the Left Front regime, the Congress faced violence from the ruling alliance workers. Now, we are the victim of violence unleashed by the Trinamool.

“The elections in 2009 and 2011 were held in a proper manner. Steps must be taken to ensure the same this time also,” said Bhuniya.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) submitted a memorandum to Zutshi, echoing the demand for central forces from the day of notification.

“The central forces should hold confidence-building route march in all areas and guard all polling booths. The booths must be guarded by central forces and state police personnel should be posted outside the 200-metre periphery,” said BJP leader and former union minister Tapan Sikdar.

It also demanded strict vigil at the international border to prevent “Bangladeshi nationals from voting in favour of the ruling party”.

Trinamool all India general secretary Mukul Roy claimed all elections conducted during its rule have been “free and fair”.

“The panchayat, municipal elections, as also by-polls to assembly and Lok Sabha seats have been held since we came to power. In all the elections, people have voted in large numbers in a free and fair manner,” said Roy.

Nixing the opposition parties’ charge that there were apprehensions on whether people would be allowed to cast their votes freely, Roy said: “In none of the polls held during our regime, has the electronic media been able to show one photo of a person casting vote for another.”