Mamata rejects SEC's demand for forces in panchayat polls



Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday rejected the State Election Commission's demand for 1.49 lakh security forces for the first phase of panchayat polls scheduled next month, saying the state did not have requisite forces at its disposal.

"You are saying that that 1.49 lakh forces are required (in the first phase of polling). Where will we get it given the availability of forces in the state? We do not have that much of forces, how could we give it?" she told reporters here in an oblique reference to the State Election Commission's demand.

Banerjee said the state lacked adequate forces and added, "After my government came to power, we had recruited 40,000 personnel in state forces. There were not enough forces in the state at all when we took office (in 2011)."

The State Election Commission has said that it is still in the dark about the availability of security forces, and added that the government would be held responsible if the panchayat polls are not held as per schedule.

The three-phase panchayat elections in the state is slated to begin from July 2. State Election Commissioner Mira Pandey said a communication would be made to the state government by today seeking a final clarification on the availability of forces to ensure the panchayat polls scheduled for July 2 were conducted freely and fairly and in a peaceful manner.

She said that after receiving the government's reply to its communication on force availability, the poll panel would chalk out its next course of action.

PTI