Central forces will remain in West Bengal till August 4, in a move to curb poll violence

The counting of votes of the just-concluded five phase panchayat elections, will begin on July 29. It is likely to be completed in the small hours of July 30, Tapash Roy, Secretary to the West Bengal Election Commissioner said here on Sunday.

In the present rural polls, about 6270 seats have been won uncontested. There are 58,865 seats in the three-tier panchayat system.

Ahead of the counting of votes, the State Election Commission (SEC), decided to enforce Section 144 within 200 metres of the 329 counting centres. Nearly a lakh people are set to be harnessed for the job.

Forty-five companies of Central forces will be deployed in the State on the day when counting begins. These will be split into 450 sections, and stationed in the 329 counting centres. In the highly sensitive booths, 10 personnel of the Central forces will be deployed.

A two-tier security system will be in place during the counting. The first tier will be manned by the Central forces and the second will be guarded by personnel of the State Armed Police.

Mobile phones will be totally banned in and around the counting centres. Only those who are involved in the counting process will be allowed to use mobiles.

The sequence of the counting will be gram panchayat, panchayat samiti and zilla parishad. According to SEC officials, the sequence of counting being followed this year is in accordance with Section 87(2) under part V, Counting of Votes, The West Bengal Panchayat Elections Rules, 2006.

In order to curb post-poll violence, the Central forces will remain in the State until August 4, Mr. Roy said. Victory processions can only be taken out with the permission of the police.

The Opposition, however, is apprehensive of violence even on the day of counting. State general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Rahul Sinha, told The Hindu : “With the kind of terror that had taken place during the panchayat elections I wonder how peaceful the counting will be.”