Ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal on Thursday met the full bench of the Election Commission of India (ECI) and alleged that the Border Security Force (BSF) is threatening people in the border areas of the state to cast their votes in favour of a particular political party.
The BSF, however, denied the TMC's allegation as 'baseless' and 'far from the truth'.
The full bench of the ECI, led by Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, arrived in the state on Wednesday evening on a three-day visit ahead of the assembly polls, the dates of which are yet to be announced.
"We have informed the CEC and other ECI officials that the BSF is threatening voters in the border areas. We have received inputs that officers of the paramilitary force are visiting various villages and asking people to cast their votes in favour of a particular political party.
"This is a dangerous situation and the ECI must look into it," TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee told reporters after meeting the ECI delegation in Kolkata.
Chatterjee also alleged that the BSF personnel were telling the villagers that 'none but us will remain in the border areas throughout the year to look after you'.
Denying the TMC's allegations, the BSF said it is a professional border guarding force actively checking illegal infiltration and smuggling.
'The statements given by West Bengal ministers Partha Chatterjee and Firhad Hakim, levelling allegations against the BSF, are without any basis and far from any truth. The BSF stands firmly committed to its motto 'duty unto death' at all times,' a statement issued by the force's South Bengal Frontier said.
The BSF is deployed along West Bengal's 2,217-km border with Bangladesh.
Reacting to the controversy, BJP state chief Dilip Ghosh said that the BSF only protects the borders and no finger should be pointed at the force.
"Those levelling the allegations know better what prompted them to say such things," Ghosh said after meeting the ECI delegation.
He said the BJP urged the ECI for the deployment of central forces in each booth during the elections.
"The party also informed the ECI about the abnormal rise in the number of voters possibly due to the inclusion of infiltrators in the list and urged the poll panel to look into the matter," Ghosh said.
Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Rabin Deb said the Left party urged the ECI for the effective utilisation of the central forces.
"We urged the ECI to ensure a conducive atmosphere for holding free and fair elections," he said.
The ECI officials are meeting the representatives of various political parties and holding discussions with officials of central and state regulatory agencies during their three-day visit.
A review meeting will also be held with the divisional commissioners and district election officers, sources in the state poll panel said.