Central forces on Sunday started route marches and patrolling in several districts of West Bengal ahead of the Assembly elections.
While officials said the patrolling was aimed at boosting the morale of the voters, the ruling Trinamool Congress slammed the BJP government at the Centre, saying “the BJP is treating polls as war, and not elections”.
At least 12 companies of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) reached West Bengal on Saturday. By February 25, at least 125 companies are likely to arrive in the state to maintain law and order during the election campaign.
The elections will include 60 companies of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), 30 companies of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), 25 companies of the Border Security Force (BSF) and five companies each of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).
On Sunday, West Bengal Police and district officials were seen accompanying the central force personnel in many areas. The paramilitary forces have already reached several districts, including Birbhum, Bankura, Burdwan, Howrah, North and South 24 Parganas and West Midnapore.
Central forces were also seen patrolling in Keshpur and Chandrakona in West Midnapore, and in many areas in Burdwan city.
Reacting to the central forces’ arrival in the state even before election dates are announced, TMC leader Bratya Basu said, “The BJP is considering it (polls) as war and not elections. They might even send a tank because they know they don’t have people’s support. For TMC, election is a festival of democracy for which we are ready”.
Meanwhile, remarks by a local TMC leader in Bhangar sparked a row, with opposition parties including the BJP alleging that he “threatened voters”.
Mudassar Hossain, chief of the TMC’s Bhogali-2 panchayat in Bhangar area of South 24 Parganas, allegedly said, “No one can go to the polling booths except Trinamool people. Those who will not vote for TMC need not go to the polling booths and cast their votes. The central forces will be in the booth, our boys will play on the field… no matter what the central forces are. There will be no other party here. All the other parties will play games, but we will play a different game.”
Bengal BJP vice-president Jay Prakash Majumdar said, “(CM) Mamata and her nephew Abhishek are hell-bent on making the upcoming election violent. We believe in peace and want everyone to cast their votes without fear.”
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