Booth sensitivity: EC approves report ruling out BJP's demand
Kolkata: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has primarily approved the report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Bengal stating that less than 30 percent of the total booths in the state are 'sensitive', thereby ruling out the demand of BJP that all 78,000 booths in the state should be declared so.
As per reports of the CEO's office, 18,461 booths in the state have been identified as vulnerable, which is around 25 percent of the total number of booths.
According to sources in the EC, South 24-Parganas, with 2,357 vulnerable pockets, is the most sensitive district in the state. Eight other districts including North 24 Parganas, Murshidabad, Malda, East Midnapore, North Dinajpur, Birbhum, West Burdwan and Kolkata are also under the scanner of the Election Commission.
"This will be reviewed and the final deployment of Central Forces will be made on the basis of vulnerability," said a senior official in the CEO's office. Moreover, the Election Commission's preliminary report to the expenditure observers has also revealed that there are no 'expenditure sensitive' constituencies in Bengal. The report assumes significance as the EC has identified more than 110 Lok Sabha constituencies across the country as "expenditure sensitive" or prone to influence through money in the Lok Sabha elections.
According to the report, all parliamentary constituencies in Tamil Nadu and over half of the seats in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka and Telangana have been identified as "expenditure sensitive".
116 of 175 Assembly constituencies and 16 of 25 Lok Sabha constituencies in Andhra Pradesh are expenditure sensitive. A number of Lok Sabha seats in Telangana, Bihar, Karnataka and two LS seats in Jharkhand are under EC watch.
A good number of constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Haryana will also be closely monitored by the Election Commission.
Sources in the CEO's office stated that Bengal doesn't have a history of exorbitant expenses in the election. In the last two major elections- the Lok Sabha election in 2014 and
the Assembly polls in 2016, there was hardly any major seizure after the MCC (Model Code of Conduct) came into force.
In the 2016 Assembly elections, the seizure was a little over Rs 7 crore, of which Rs 4 crore was released after verification. In Kolkata, the seizure was around Rs 5 lakh but the entire money was returned after verification.
"There was a seizure of Rs 3 crore in absolute terms, which is very low considering the vastness of Bengal. The expense per constituency was also within limit and over 90 percent candidates submitted their return after the election. There was no case of bribery or illegal money transaction and so the state has been designated as non-expenditure sensitive," the source maintained.
It may be mentioned that expenditure sensitivity is determined by the past history of a constituency. The Commissioner of Police or the Superintendent of the district identifies a constituency as 'expenditure sensitive', meaning that it is prone to high expenditure and corrupt practices.
The local administration, in consultation with the expenditure observer, also looks into the literacy, economic development or the number of complaints during the last election. On the basis of the report, the commission makes special arrangement for these constituencies.