EC concerned over law and order situation in WB

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Kolkata, Jan 8: The Election Commission on Jan 08, Saturday expressed concern over law and order in West Bengal and said dates for assembly elections in the state would be announced at an ''appropriate time''.

"Of course, we are concerned very much," Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi told a press conference here when asked whether EC was concerned over the law and order in the state.

He said "we are examining the situation in the statein totality to finalise the dates of election and conduct it peacefully and in a free and fair manner. We are reviewing everything. We will announce the dates at an appropriate time.

"Several things like examination, festival, deployment of forces have to be taken into account before deciding thedates of election," he said.

Quraishi said most political parties during their meeting with the Commission, expressed concern over the law and order situation.

Referring to the opposition allegation of the existence of armed CPI(M) camps, the CEC said this was one of the issues, "which we are reviewing with the officers.

"We have instructed the police officers to conduct search and seizure of illegal arms and ammunition and illicit liquor. Instruction was also given for execution ofnon-bailable warrants," he said.

The CEC also said there were allegations regarding the neutrality of officers. "We have told the officers that there will be zero tolerance in this regard."

He said since candidates in Bihar were allowed to be present during the first level check of EVMs, the same would be followed in West Bengal.

"We will send some outside observers for the random first-level check of EVMs," he said, adding an expenditure monitoring division was created in EC with the help of income tax officials to curb money power and paid news.

"This was started in Bihar and it did a great job,"Quraishi said.

He said paid news was checked in Bihar and 86 notices were served. EC was contemplating legal action on this issueas there was some amount of deception involved.

Referring to CPI(M)''s allegation that Trinamool Congress was creating confusion about election dates, Quraishi said "no party should go about announcing (election) dates.

This point is well taken and only EC can announce dates. Allothers are speculation."

The CEC said the entire polling process would be monitored through webcasting.

"Videographers will be appointed and micro observers will be there," he said.

He said that as per the final voters lists in WB,there were over 5.60 crore electors in the state, which was an increase of 1.04 per cent.

According to the CEC, there were 51,919 polling stations in the state, besides 18,905 auxilliary booths. Ofthese, nearly 25,000 booths were vulnerable.

Quraishi said 95 per cent of EPIC cards had been completed and some more would be included on National Voters Day on January 25.

PTI

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