Thick security blanket for Bengal vote count Friday

Kolkata, May 15 (IANS): Amid a three-tier security ring, comprising personnel from both central and state security forces, election authorities will Friday count the votes polled in the five-phase elections to 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal.

Thousands of polling personnel will take part in the massive exercise spread across 294 counting halls in 69 counting centres of 48 premises to determine the fate of 472 candidates - a colourful mix of political heavyweights, singers, actors, sportspersons and a magician.

Among the eminent Trinamool nominees in fray are footballers Bhaichung Bhutia (Darjeeling), Prasun Banerjee (Howrah), actresses Moon Moon Sen (Bankura), Sandhya Roy (Medinipur), Satabdi Roy (Birbhum), matinee idol Dev alias Deepak Adhikari (Ghatal), Tapas Pal (Krishnanagar), theatre personality Arpita Ghosh (Balurghat), singers Soumitra Roy (Malda North) and Indranil Sen (Baharampur) and Harvard don Sugata Bose (Jadavpur).

Also in the fray as Trinamool candidate is party chief Mamata Banerjee's nephew Abhishek Banerjee (Diamond Harbour), former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi (Barrackpore), leader in the Lok Sabha Sudip Bandopadhyay and state chief Subrata Bakshi (Kolkata South). 

The Bharatiya Janata Party had fielded Bollywood crooners Bappi Lahiri (Sreerampur), Babul Supriyo (Asansol), magician P.C. Sorcar Jr. (Barasat), Nimu Bhowmik (Balurghat), Joy Banerjee (Birbhum), party's national vice president S.S. Ahluwalia (Darjeeling) and spokesperson Chandan Mitra (Hooghly).

Among the Communist Party of India-Marxist heavyweights are women's activist Subhasini Ali (Barrackpore), party's leader in the Lok Sabha Basudeb Acharia (Bankura) and central committee member Mohammad Salim (Raiganj).

The Congress list includes eminent painter Samir Aich (Jadavpur), party state president Adhir Ranjan Chodhury (Baharampur) and his two predecessors Manas Bhunia (Ghatal) and Somen Mitra (Kolkata North).

As many as 55 additional observers will be deployed, in addition to the 43 who did duty during the polls. Two micro observers will be posted in each counting hall, said Assistant chief electoral officer Amitjyoti Bhattacharya.

Thirty central security personnel will man each of the counting premises.

A three-tier cordoning system will be set up in all counting premises to prevent the entry of unauthorised people inside the counting premises as per the commission's standing instructions.

In addition, a 100-metre periphery around a counting premise will be demarcated as pedestrian zone. No vehicles shall be allowed within this perimeter. "This is first cordon of the security ring and will have adequate number of local police personnel," Bhattacharya told reporters here.

The second tier and the middle cordon, at the gate of the counting premise, will be manned by the state armed police. 

Central paramilitary personnel will guard the third security layer at the door of the counting hall.

The entire exercise will be videographed.

Meanwhile, apprehending manipulation of the vote counting procedure by the ruling Trinamool Congress, the opposition Left Front has asked the Election Commission to protect its agents during the exercise.


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