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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

WB Governor Dhankhar questions SEC’s decision to hold KMC polls with state force

Contradicting the State Election Commission’s (SEC) decision to deploy state police force for conducting the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) elections scheduled on December 19, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar questioned the neutrality of the state force and said that central force can conduct the polls independently.

The Governor uploaded the letter issued by the SEC on his Twitter handle wherein the state poll body said, “We have reviewed the present security situation. We have also received the security plan from the government and as insisted by us, there are armed personnel in all premises and all sectors. The state on our query has also informed us that it has adequate force to ensure free and fair elections along with the requisite resources.

“Since this is only one election now, we tend to agree for now and will keep a close eye on the situation. Any subsequent development will be under watch. Please keep the Honourable Governor informed as I could not do so personally as I am totally enmeshed with the conduct of elections.”

Countering the rationale of the SEC, Dhankhar wrote: “The premise that the ‘state, on our query, has also informed us that it has adequate force to ensure free and fair election and the requisite resources’ does not appear to be the rationale, given the deeply politicised bureaucracy and stance of political parties… it was imperative that SEC bestows attention independent of this. KMC is as significant as other elections and opposition parties have categorically demanded CAPF deployment.

“The hesitation of the SEC on the point is not comprehensible. CAPF deployment is invariably there in Lok Sabha and Assembly polls as also in by-elections. CAPF deployment is not because states have no adequate force to ensure free and fair election, and the requisite resources. The CAPF deployment is independent of this consideration. This significant aspect seems to have escaped the focus of SEC.

“Further, inability due to ‘I am totally enmeshed with the conduct of election’ is not appreciated and more so in the context of media reports quoting SEC unfavorably to this office on this count. The issue at hand is too serious to be so perfunctorily or lackadaisically dealt with, opening SEC to criticism of lack of independence.

“SEC is the prime stakeholder for fair polls and there is no rationale for it to determinedly avoid CAPF deployment. SEC may be called upon to make it convenient at the earliest given the seriousness of CAPF deployment to ensure free and fair elections. He also needs to indicate steps taken so far for use of VVPAT-Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail in the upcoming elections in the light of Supreme Court judgment.”

Earlier in the day, putting an end to the month-long debate whether central forces will be deployed for the KMC elections, the SEC informed the Raj Bhawan that it is satisfied with the deployment mechanism of Kolkata Police and there is no need to depute central forces for the KMC polls at this moment.

Sources in the commission said that the SEC, after a detailed discussion with Kolkata Police and the state Home Department officials, is satisfied with the number of forces and the deployment mechanism designed by the Kolkata Police.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with a modified headline.)

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