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Election Commission gears up for most dangerous phase of elections

Wednesday, 9 April 2014 - 8:10am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

Entering into the most crucial phase of elections on April 10 and April 17 when about 36 Maoist-affected constituencies will go to the polls, the Election Commission, in consultation of the Union home ministry and paramilitary forces, has drawn up extensive security arrangements to thwart any attack by the Maoists.

The Maoists, as the incidents during last two days in Malkangiri (Odisha), Sukma (Chhattisgarh) and Aurangabad (Bihar) indicate, are gearing up to launch spectacular attacks on polling parties, politicians and even on voters to prove their mettle and supremacy in their strongholds.

"The paramilitary forces along with state armed polices' have already been asked to go in for area domination, fan out for maximum coverage 48 hours before the start of the polling and keep the area sanitized till the last ballot is cast and all the election teams return back safely with the EVM machines to their respective base camps," a senior home ministry official said.

To beat the Maoist design, about 1,000 companies or 1,00,000 paramilitary security personnel besides 50,000 state armed police personnel have been deployed in key constituencies in Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra.

In worst affect regions of Bastar in Chhattisgarh, Jamui, Aurangabad, Gaya and Nawada in Bihar, Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, Kodarma, Chatra, Girdih, Lohardaga, Palamu, Khunti Hazaribagh in Jharkhand, Bolangir, Koraput, Bargarh, Berhampur in Odisha, the paramilitary forces have been asked to put their best men.

About 7,000 elite CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) and about 1000 Greyhounds, Andhra Pradesh specialized anti-Maoist force, have been pushed close to the Maoist strongholds to engage the Peoples' Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA) of CPI (Maoist) in case they try to subvert elections and try to attack election officials on duty and politicians.

The Centre has instructed the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) to press all the six Herons into service round the clock to keep a hawk eye on the movement of armed Maoists cadre in strongholds of Bastar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, sources in the central reserve police force (CRPF) told dna.

Not ready to take any chances, the Election Commission has directed all state governments to ensure optimal utilization of central paramilitary forces and state armed forces by preparing state deployment plan in consultation with the chief electoral officer of the state and state level force coordinator appointed by the union home ministry.

All polling staff have been asked to move and remain only under the umbrella protection of central paramilitary forces till the completion of their election duties in Maoist affected regions.

The directive sent specifically asks state governments not to deploy armed police in less than one section strength (15-20 personnel) in Maoist-affected areas.

"The SP of the concerned district shall certify in writing whether the area is insurgency affected or otherwise," the EC told all states in its directive that also aims to stop any attempts of a foul play by interested parties by way of hobnobbing with the insurgents.

The EC has also made clear that deployment of any force (like village defence committee, homeguards, forest guards, Ad-hoc Auxiliary force) other than state's own uniformed police force and the central paramilitary forces would need its prior approval.

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