The Union Home Ministry assured the West Bengal government on Tuesday that Central forces would be made available for conducting rural elections if there was a request from the State.

The decision came after a meeting between Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday evening.

Ms. Banerjee told journalists on June 5 that the Centre had refused to provide 300 companies of forces because they were deployed elsewhere for other purposes. This led to fresh uncertainty over rural elections, with the State Election Commission pointing out that it might reconsider holding the panchayat election unless security of the voters was ensured.

Though the Commission was keen on approaching the High Court over the matter, the developments during the day led it to reconsider its stand.

“We are not approaching the court now. The Commission is watching the situation,” a senior counsel of the commission told The Hindu.

Despite the assurance from the Home Ministry, questions remain whether the Centre can provide the forces required.

O the 1.45 lakh forces required across nine districts which are scheduled to go to polling in the first phase on July 2, the State government has 50,000 forces, leaving a deficit of about 90,000 security personnel to be mobilised from the Centre or other States.

 The State government has not received any positive response from any other States to its request to provide forces.

State Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya met Mr. Shinde in New Delhi and apprised him that it was not possible to hold rural elections unless Central forces were made available.

  “He [Mr. Shinde] assured me that the Centre will provide the requisite number of forces required by the State,” Mr. Bhattacharya said.