Why the Trinamool is gunning for BJP over early deployment of central forces?
The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool opposed the Centre’s early deployment of paramilitary forces before elections
Rarely have paramilitary forces been deployed in states even before election dates are announced. However, this is not the case with West Bengal this time. Even though elections are likely to be held in April-May, the Election Commission is yet to announce the dates for Bengal. Despite this, paramilitary forces have already landed in the state and are conducting flag marches in Kolkata and in sensitive pockets in the districts.
The Trinamool, expectedly, is crying foul, calling the Centre’s move unconstitutional. The BJP has welcomed the step, citing repeated attacks on its workers allegedly by Trinamool supporters in the run-up to elections. The upcoming election in Bengal is considered a do-or-die battle for both Mamata Banerjee and the BJP, which has tasted blood in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
For long, the Opposition has complained of violence by Trinamool workers during elections. There have also been complaints of booth capturing and legitimate voters being barred from casting their votes. Though the Election Commission takes over the poll process and all state officials work under it, the paramilitary forces work with state police as they are not aware of the topography.
Under the guidance of state police, paramilitary forces are expected to rush to spots witnessing violence or malpractices during elections. However, there have been complaints by the Opposition that the state police, under instructions of the Trinamool government, mislead central forces away from the scene of trouble.
In such a situation, the early deployment of paramilitary forces is a significant move. Home ministry sources say it will give them time to study the area, keep track of polling booths and formulate a plan for prompt action in case of trouble, without being too dependent on state police.
The Trinamool has reacted strongly. “The Centre cannot deploy paramilitary forces before elections without the state government’s approval. The Election Commission takes over once the model code of conduct comes into force. But law and order issues are the prerogative of the state government. The BJP is trying to disrupt the election process,” said a senior Trinamool leader.
Elections in Bengal are likely to be held simultaneously with Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. But due to Bengal’s history of political violence, it remains the focus of paramilitary forces. Also, the state is likely to witness elections in 7-8 phases, starting from North Bengal, and then gradually moving south. In such a scenario, central forces also need adequate rest to take their election duties forward.
Home ministry sources further say that the CRPF, which is mostly deployed for poll duties, will need adequate time to study the threat perception in certain areas. Not just political violence, but there is also a possibility of certain radical groups stirring trouble during the poll process.
Amid the bitter tussle between Trinamool and BJP, the early deployment of paramilitary forces in Bengal has given its ruling party another opportunity to lash out at the Centre. But whether the people of Bengal can vote in peace this time remains to be seen.