Union Home Ministry says Central forces could not be provided for polls

Calcutta High Court on Tuesday asked senior State government officials to meet the State Election Commissioner and discuss the feasibility of holding the rural elections in five phases. Once the process of elections has started the elections cannot be cancelled, the Court observed.

 A division bench of Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Joymalya Bagchi gave the suggestion after counsel representing the Union Home Ministry told the Court that Central forces could not be provided to the State government for the polls.

The Court, while hearing the election panel’s petition seeking the deployment of adequate security forces for the polls, had earlier in the day proposed to both the sides to consider increasing the number of phases for the polls to five.

 The State government proposed in the court a four-phase poll but the State Election Commission rejected it.

Senior counsel Samaraditya Pal who appeared for the election panel said that the proposal of holding the polls in five phases was “totally unrealistic” and talks between the State government officials and election panel held earlier in the day had failed to reach a consensus.

 “We have not been told what forces are available and without that no phasing of the elections can be done,” Mr. Pal said, adding that all the “assurances made by the State government to provide security forces in the past have been broken.”

 The Court also observed that there was an “acute shortfall” of about 77,000 security personnel for holding the election in the nine districts scheduled to go the polls in the first phase on July 2.

Stating that there are “sufficient reasons to increase the number of phases” the court said that it was trying to ascertain that the “forces available with the State government are best utilised.”

Meanwhile in the revised poll schedule as proposed during the day by the State government there has been a regrouping of the nine districts that were listed for the first phase.

Under the fresh proposal the three districts in the State’s Jangalmahal region affected by Maoist activities — Purulia, Bankura and Paschim Medinipur — along with Purba Medinipur will go the polls on July 2. The remaining five districts of south Bengal will go to polls on June 4, it has been suggested. There has been no change in the district-wise grouping for the other two phases.

The Court directed both the State government and the election panel to come up the district-wise break up of security forces required for holding the polls on Wednesday when it will take up the matter again.