Aizawl: Mizoram's embattled Chief Electoral Officer S B Shashank on Monday got the state police's support to his demand for heavy deployment of central forces for the poll process, with a top police official saying the requirement of 40 companies was decided after due consultation with all concerned authorities.
"We go by the guidelines and instructions of the Election Commission of India for conduct of peaceful elections. This time, every assembly constituency must have independent strong room for EVM and VVPAT machines," Mizoram Deputy Inspector General of Police (Training & Armed Branch) Joseph Lalchhuana said.
Shashank had sought deployment of 40 companies of central armed police forces (CAPF) in the state, which did not go down well with the powerful NGO Coordination Committee -- a conglomerate of civil societies and student organisations -- and the political parties.
Accusing him of being anti-Mizo, political parties have termed Shashank's actions as "foolish" and jave charged him of puncturing the state's enviable record of holding peaceful polls for decades.
Amid a raging controversy and massive protests here demanding the CEO's ouster over his alleged "pro-Bru" stance and for seeking "unnecessary central forces" for the polls, the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Saturday announced its decision to replace Shashank. The Mizoram government has suggested names of three IAS officers to the Commission for the new CEO.
Mizoram Police, which is the nodal agency for the overall security for the forthcoming polls, however said that 40 companies of CAPF are necessary if the assembly elections and counting for the 40 constituencies are to be conducted as per the ECI mandate.
As per the ECI, each strong room has to be guarded by a prescribed strength of CAPF, said Lalchhuana, who is also the Assistant State Police Nodal Officer for the assembly elections.
"Likewise, the ECI has instructed that every assembly constituency should have a separate counting hall to expedite the result declaration. This will again have to be guarded by a prescribed strength of CAPF," Lalchhuana told PTI in an interview.
These guidelines have inflated the CAPF requirement as these have to be followed without any deviations, while Mizoram Police will be stationed on the second line of security, the senior police officer said.
During 2013 assembly polls, during which these guidelines were not in force, there were 28 companies of the CAPF to guard eight strong rooms and counting centres in as many districts.
"The figure of having 40 CAPF was arrived at after considering the requirements submitted by the Superintendent of Police and Election Officer from all the eight districts of Mizoram," Lalchhuana said.
The 40 companies sent by the Union Home Ministry, comprising 80-100 persons each, consists of personnel from BSF, SSB, CRPF and Assam Police, he said.
The senior police official said these forces from outside the state will assist the 42 companies of Mizoram Police and also participate in poll-related activities like area domination for confidence building, static surveillance teams, quick response teams, flying squads and check posts.
Voting will take place in Mizoram on November 28, while results would be announced on December 11, along with the results of multi-phased assembly elections in four other states -- Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Telangana.
Mizoram has 40 assembly seats with an estimated 7.6 lakh registered voters. The Congress has been in power since 2008 in the state.