Gujarat will get only 353 companies of central paramilitary forces for security arrangements during the assembly election and not 400 as announced by the Election Commission, nor 375 or 425 as its chief James Lyngdoh had claimed in a television interview.
Top civil and police officers and the state's chief electoral officer, who held a lengthy meeting on Monday with the commission to review the security situation, were told by Lyngdoh that the Centre had agreed to provide only 353 companies.
Lyngdoh is reported to have said that the earlier plan of providing one company to each returning officer will have to be scaled down and only sensitive districts will get the forces.
The home ministry revealed that Union Home Secretary N Gopalaswami had sent a letter to the Election Commission after the meeting as 'agreed minutes' to put on record that Lyngdoh and his two colleague election commissioners, T S Krishnamurthy and B B Tandon, had agreed to 353 companies.
Sources also said that there were heated exchanges between Gopalaswami and Lyngdoh when the latter insisted on releasing at least 10 companies of the Central Reserve Police Force from Jammu & Kashmir, pointing out that the elections there had already ended.
Gopalaswami pointed out that military intelligence has objected to any withdrawal of central paramilitary forces from Jammu & Kashmir. In fact, the Centre had inputs that terrorist activities in the state may flare up because of the release of militants by the new Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government.
The chief election commissioner reportedly flared up over this contention, asking, "Does it mean that I am not concerned about national security?"
At the meeting many numbers of companies to be deployed were discussed. The home secretary then stuck to the last figure of 343, but later agreed to provide 10 more. These companies, however, will be drawn from other states, not from J&K.
At Monday's meeting with Gujarat's home secretary, director general of police and chief electoral officer, Lyngdoh and his colleagues got a full briefing on how and where the state authorities plan to post police personnel. "We discussed and approved a detailed action plan for security," the chief election commissioner said.
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