Bengal polls could be the costliest ever

The original cost estimate pegged at Rs 203 crore has shot up by several notches and if sources in the state finance department are to be believed, the final expenditure might come close to Rs 400 crore.

“It’s a shame that the Election Commission has been forced to stagger the polls for such a prolonged period to ensure free and fair polling and root out chances of violence, rigging, proxy votes and other manipulative practices that used to mar the Bengal polls earlier,” a senior IAS official said.

West Bengal Governor M K Narayanan reportedly quipped, “We were simply befooled”.

Some of the unforeseen costs that contributed to a phenomenal rise in the expenditure include Rs 21 crore incurred for the dispatch of nearly 620 companies of central para-military forces and Rs 13 crore for one-way air fare to ferry additional forces from Tamil Nadu.

All this had to be done due to the alleged partisan role of the state police (including armed) forces during the past Assembly polls.

In fact, the Bihar home secretary Amanullah who was in Bengal as an observer in the 2001 polls, gave a scathing report on non-cooperation from state police and civilian officers. He was extremely critical of the role played by the then chief electoral officer Basudeb Banerjee for his failure to provide security to a woman observer in Nadia district.

The final cost, sources feel, is likely to escalate further if the forces are to stay back in the state in view of apprehension of large scale post-poll violence and the Commission may opt for continuous deployment of forces till May 31 to prevent bloodshed and ensure the law and order.

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