Opposition parties demand Central observers in Bengal for 2019 polls
By  IANS | Updated:  Jan 31, 2019, 07:38 PM
West Bengal Opposition parties on Thursday met Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora here and placed their charter of demands including the appointment of Central observers and deployment of Central forces well in advance to ensure free and fair polling in the State in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The full bench of the Election Commission led by Arora arrived in Kolkata on Wednesday to review the preparedness for the Lok Sabha elections in the State.
They held a meeting with all political parties, state administration and state EC officials on Thursday.
A state BJP delegation met Arora and demanded that Central observers be appointed across all segments, besides adequate deployment of Central forces in all districts well in advance for building confidence among the people.
The delegation asked for the deployment of only Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) personnel in all polling booths, under the supervision of Central police observers, instead of depending on the State police force.
The party said there was a "severe and pervasive sense of fear" among the voters in Bengal due to the political violence and killings that took place during the rural body polls earlier.
"A chief observer from outside be appointed to oversee the functioning of the State Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) as his office came under doubt regarding functioning in a fair manner during the last poll process.
"All general observers should be empowered to oversee the functioning of district electoral officers and returning officers," the party said.
"A chief police observer be appointed to oversee the deployment of police and CAPF forces to ensure adequate security measures, area domination and 'naka checking' across all constituencies before and during the elections," it added.
The saffron party also demanded real time videography of all polling station premises and said a special observer should be appointed to monitor the work of electoral registration officers (ERO) and ensure that fake voters are removed from voter lists.
State leaders of the Left parties including the CPI-M and the CPI urged the EC to ensure that voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines are installed along with the EVMs across all polling stations.
"We have asked them (EC) to install the EVMs along with the VVPAT machines in all the polling booths here," CPI leader Ashok Roy said.
"In the last few elections, the Central forces were not properly utilised. They were kept in barracks. CAPF deployment should be made under the supervision of the Central observers and not under that of the State police officers," CPI-M leader Rabin Deb demanded.
The Congress, too, backed the demands raised by the Opposition parties and said it is the EC's responsibility to ensure free and fair polling in West Bengal.
Leaders from Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress including the party's secretary general Partha Chatterjee also met the EC officials but remained tight-lipped about their discussion.
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