A six-member team of officials of the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Wednesday concluded a two-day review of the Legislative Assembly election preparedness in Karnataka after holding consultation with representatives of political parties and election officials for conducting free and fair polls.
It also took stock of the schedule of various examinations, fairs, and festivals in the State. Sources who attended the meeting indicated that the possible election dates could be between the last week of April and the first week of May since the Common Entrance Test for admissions to engineering courses will be over on April 19. “In all possibility, the election schedule will be announced after the second week of March,” an official said.
The team headed by Senior Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha assessed the revision of electoral rolls, law and order situation, use of information technology, availability of manpower, polling booths, and other facilities to ensure free and fair elections.
The ECI officials decided to tighten the vigil to curb the influence of cash, liquor and other inducements ahead of elections. Income Tax (I-T) and Excise departments have already been sounded out in this regard, Mr. Sinha told presspersons.
Adequate Central forces would be requisitioned to ensure fair elections in the State. The election expenditure per constituency in the State has been fixed at ₹28 lakh for each candidate.
District electoral officers and superintendents of police have been instructed to set up surveillance squads to keep a watch on any election irregularities and also expenditure being incurred by candidates for campaigning, he said. The ECI would set up a committee in each district and at the State level to monitor the media as part of its exercise to act against paid news.
Mr. Sinha warned of stringent action against those who offer inducements to lure the voters. He told representatives from political parties to take a pledge to not use money and muscle power. Similarly, he appealed to voters to take a pledge to not receive any inducements from candidates.
The election dates would be announced after Chief Election Commissioner A.K. Jyoti and two election commissioners visit the State.
Deputy Election Commissioner Sandeep Saxena said a single window would be opened to provide permission for rallies and functions on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Election Commission of India is likely to extend the date for enrolling names of eligible voters in the electoral rolls in Karnataka. Currently, the last date for enrolment is January 12.
Briefing presspersons here on Wednesday after reviewing preparations in the State for the Legislative Assembly elections, which are likely to be held in April–May, Mr. Sinha, said officials in various districts have demanded extension of the last date for enrolment of names in the voters’ list.
“We will see and discuss the matter further, and if possible, extend the last date for enrolment.”
Currently, there are 4.9 crore voters in Karnataka in the 224 Assembly constituencies. Both online and off-line options are available for enrolment of names.
Expressing concern over the electoral rolls preparation, Mr. Sinha said the final electoral rolls would be published on February 20. However, those who have filled forms seeking enrolment of names would be included in the electoral rolls till the last date for filing nomination papers by candidates, he said.
For nearly 25,000 service voters who are serving both within India and abroad, electronically transmitted post with encrypted message will be sent. Mr. Saxena, who is in charge of IT and modernisation, said voters using these electronically transmitted post can download the encrypted message and send it is back. “This will help service voters participate in the polls.”
‘Make polling stations voter-friendly’
Keeping in line with the the theme of the Election Commission of India ‘Accessible Elections’, ECI officials have asked the State authorities to make polling stations voter-friendly. It has issued a detailed list of what preparation has be to done.
“Ramps, wheelchair availability, good roads leading to polling station, drinking water facility, power supply, and gender sensitisation of volunteers are required. We desire that elections are not only fair and free, but also inclusive, gender sensitive, and participatory,” said Mr. Sinha on Wednesday. According to him, persons with disabilities will be mapped and their needs identified, while Braille ballot will be provided to the visually challenged.
Source: The Hindu