“Unprecedented security arrangements” in 14 constituencies in Maoist-affected areas

The sixth and final phase of the Assembly elections in West Bengal will be held on Tuesday under “unprecedented security arrangements” in 14 constituencies in the Maoist-affected areas of Bankura, Purulia and Paschim Medinipur district.

Of the 3,584 polling stations in the areas going to the polls, over a thousand booths have been identified as “critical.” Of these, 563 are in Bankura, 16 in Purulia and 470 in Paschim Medinipur districts, State's Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta said here on Monday.

“A lion's share of the Central forces in the State have been deployed in the region,” Mr. Gupta said adding that only forces guarding the counting stations and those deployed to maintain law and order in other local areas had been held back.

While there has been no major incident of violence in the five phases of the elections held so far, the Commission has put additional measures in place as the final phase covers Maoist affected areas.

The Maoists have called for a boycott of the polls, but Koteswar Rao alias Kishenji, a member of the Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), has made a statement that no one will be stopped if he chooses to vote.

Advanced security equipment, including satellite phones, night vision equipment and quick clot kits, have been distributed in all three districts. Three helicopters are conducting surveillance in the region and the Jharkhand and Orissa borders were sealed, he added.

As an additional precautionary measure, the Election Commission has declared that polling in the final phase will end at 3 p.m. instead of the usual 5 p.m.

There are 97 candidates in the fray in the final phase. Their fate will be decided by over 26 lakh voters. Minister for Paschimanchal Unnyan Affairs Susanta Ghosh, and convener of the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee Chhatradhar Mahato are among those contesting this round.

Mr. Mahato, now an undertrial imprisoned in the Midnapore Central Correctional Home, is contesting from Jhargram constituency in Paschim Medinipur as an Independent candidate.