December 24, 2008

Nandigram by-polls deferred for security reasons

KOLKATA, 22nd December, 2008: By-elections in West Bengal’s Nandigram and Sujapur assembly constituencies scheduled for December 27 have been deferred for security reasons and will be held on January 5, 2009.

“The decision has been taken by the Election Commission with the purpose of ensuring an adequate deployment of security forces there on the date of polling, ” the Chief Electoral Officer, Debashis Sen, told mediapersons on Monday.

Nandigram is considered a sensitive constituency given its recent turbulent past. The area has been in the spot-light ever since the start of eleven months of intermittent violence in 2007 between supporters of the Left parties and those of the Trinamool Congress-led Bhoomi Ucched Pratirodh (Resistance against Eviction for Land) Committee even after the State Government had called off its plans to set up a chemical hub in the face of protests over land acquisition from a section of the local population.
Video coverage

Considering its recent history the Election Commission has decided that the entire polling process will be video-graphed. “The entire elections will be recorded as Nandigram is considered a very sensitive constituency and in view of the fears expressed from various quarters of irregularities during voting,” Mr. Sen said.

In an unprecedented move, video cameras are to be installed in each of the 226 booths where polling will take place. “We are putting in place extreme steps to ensure free, fair and peaceful polling and companies of the Central Police Force will be deployed there,” Mr. Sen said.

The Deputy Election Commissioner, R. Balakrishnan, reviewed the election preparations there on Sunday. “Specially trained micro-observers hand-picked by the central observer will be present in each of the booths.”

The concept of having such micro-observers during elections was put into practice for the first time recently during Assembly polls in some States “but this is the first time they will be on stationary duty in all booths,” he added.

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