The Centre has turned down West Bengal government’s appeal for central forces following a requisition by the State Election Commission to ensure peaceful polling in the upcoming civic elections in the state.
"I had written repeatedly asking the state government if it had taken up the availability of central forces to conduct peaceful civic elections in the state with the Centre," State Election Commissioner SR Upadhyay said.
He said that in the prevailing law and order situation, it would not be possible for the SEC to conduct the upcoming civic polls in the state peacefully without a required number of central force.
"Thus, we wrote to state government to make appropriate communication with the Centre on the issue. Now I have received a letter from the state Home Secretary that the Centre has ruled out availability of any central force for the civic polls," Upadhyay said.
He further added that central forces were sought to strengthen confidence among people to cast their votes peacefully. "With the availability of central forces, it could have been much easier for us to boost confidence among the voters," he said.
The SEC said that in the emerging situation, there was no other alternative but to depend on state forces entirely.
Accordingly, we have to chalk out the force deployment plan in consultation with various agencies of the state government. We require at least 50 companies of central forces for civic polls in Kolkata and another 100 companies for the rest municipalities. Now we are wondering how to fill up this gap," he said.
"A meeting will soon be called with different state agencies and senior state government officials to prepare an appropriate deployment plan for the upcoming civic polls," Upadhyay said.
State Home Secretary Basudeb Banerjee had in a letter to Upadhyay on March 25 said the state government had no objection in deployment of central forces for the civic polls in the state, the SEC said.
Elections to the 144-seat Kolkata Municipal Corporation was slated for April 18, while polls to 91 municipalities across the state would be held on April 25.
Opposition parties in West Bengal have been demanding deployment of central forces for the municipal elections in the state for conducting peaceful polls.