The Election Commission (EC) will send a team of five senior officers, headed by Bihar Chief Electoral Officer Sudhir Kumar Rakesh, to West Bengal to make a first-hand assessment of the law and order situation there in view of the coming elections to the 294-member Assembly.

The team, after visiting different districts, will submit a report to the EC.

In a press release, the EC said it was met by several political parties in Delhi and during its visit to Kolkata on January 8 too, it received representations over the law and order situation in the State. The Commission also went through several media reports on the issue.

“Maintenance of law and order is crucial to the conduct of a free, fair, and peaceful election.  The Commission has, therefore, decided to make an independent assessment of the law and order situation in West Bengal,” the release said.

The EC's decision assumes significance as a war of words had erupted between Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee on the violence in the State.

Ms. Banerjee had alleged that Trinamool cadres were being targeted by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) men, and that violence was let loose on them in view of the coming polls.

Mr. Bhattacharjee is expected to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram here over the next few days to discuss the issue.

Among other things, the January 7 Netai killings in Lalgarh and the prevailing law and order situation are likely to be discussed.