Mamata seeks central security forces for rural polls

Kolkata, May 29 (IANS) Climbing down from its earlier stand of sticking to state forces for the upcoming panchayat polls, the West Bengal government Wednesday requisitioned 300 companies of central para-military forces for deployment.

State home secretary Basudeb Banerjee said the central forces would be deployed in the state from June 28 till July 13.

The panchayat polls will be held in three phases July 2, 6 and 9 with the counting concluding July 13.

However, state panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee said: "It is not a climb-down. We had to compromise with the State Election Commission (SEC) on a lot of issues to conduct the elections. We have been endeavouring for last several months to conduct the polls on time," said Mukherjee.

He added that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Tuesday had given the go ahead to seek central forces.

Following a bitter legal battle with the Banerjee government over the conduct of the polls, the SEC Monday notified the rural polls to be conducted in 17 districts of the state, barring Kolkata and Darjeeling.

While the ruling Trinamool Congress wanted a two-phase polls with only state security forces, the SEC has been clamouring for a three-stage polls with the deployment of central security forces.

Earlier this month, a division bench of the Calcutta High Court had asked the state government to compensate shortfall of security personnel, if any, by procuring forces from other states or the centre.

The court had also spelt out a scheme of deployment of security personnel in the 57,000-odd poll booths.

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