725 CAPF companies to be deployed for West Bengal polls: CRPF DG

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New Delhi, Mar 18 (PTI) As many as 725 companies of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) will be deployed in West Bengal for the conduct of the forthcoming eight-phase assembly elections, CRPF chief Kuldiep Singh said on Thursday.

Addressing a press conference on eve of the 82nd raising anniversary of the country's largest paramilitary force, Singh said that 495 out of the 725 companies have already reached the state while the rest are on their way.

'One CAPF company has an operational strength of about 72 personnel,' he told the reporters.

The CRPF is the nodal force for deployment of central forces during elections.

West Bengal will have an eight-phased polling for its 294-member assembly beginning March 27. Asked about the threat assessment in the state, Singh said: 'Threat assessments are done by state authorities in different areas and they decide the deployment of forces on that basis.' 'We do not have any such assessment that which phase would be more challenging,' the 1986-batch IPS officer of the West Bengal cadre said.

Singh was recently appointed as the head of the over 3.25 lakh personnel-strong CRPF. He has been serving as a Special DG in the CRPF before taking up the top post.

'We provide support to the state authorities so that peaceful and successful elections could be held under the directions of the Election Commission.' 'We are committed for peaceful, free and fair elections. We provide support, we do not gather intelligence,' the CRPF DG said, adding deployment in the different phases of elections are being worked out. The DG also added that the paramilitary provides its VIP security cover to 13 people in the state. West Bengal is likely to witness a triangular contest this time among the TMC, the Congress-Left alliance and the BJ.

Due to COVID-19 distancing norms, the Election Commission (EC) has scaled up polling stations in the state to 1.1 lakh.

On an average, over 12,000 poling stations would go to polls in each of the eight phases.

The total number of polling stations in these elections in the state is 1,01,916, compared to 77,413 in 2016 -- an increase of 31.65 per cent.

The number of voters, due to coronavirus spread, per polling station has been brought down to 1,000 from 1,500, resulting in an increase in the number of polling booths. PTI CPS NES TIR TIR