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Election Commissioner H S Brahma defends the nine-phase LS polls and points out why it is finally up to political parties to discipline candidates. In this Idea Exchange, moderated by Senior Editor (Legal Affairs) Maneesh Chhibber, Brahma also outlines the logistics of elections in India.
D K SINGH: What is the reason behind these prolonged elections? Is there a security consideration or some other factor at work?
The Election Commission does not want a prolonged election. It has created tremendous amount of problem for the administration. But we are forced to have a nine-phase election — from April 7 to May 12. That is a big time frame. We are forced to do it because of two things: one is our inability to mobilise a large force. It is a country of 1.2 billion and our forces are limited. Second is that no political party, including the ruling party of a state, would like to have their own force be used 100 per cent for elections in that state. This is very unfortunate. Here, everything is done by the bureaucracy. It is unfortunate that political parties, candidates and even the ruling party of a state do not back their own forces. The Central government cannot provide more than 12-13 lakh people. The total strength of our forces is not more than 9 lakh. Also, there are five borders that cannot be left unattended. Technically, we can spare only about 4 lakh people. We have been handicapped by the fact that local candidates do not believe in local forces and we have to depend on Central forces.
COOMI KAPOOR: Surely the Central forces can be deployed in a manner that they can move faster from one area to another. The result of all this is that everything in the country, including the government, comes to a standstill during polls, because you are not supposed to take any decision. Don’t you feel that this can be tightened?
I agree. Barring Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Jammu and Kashmir, the central part of the country and Left- wing areas, the rest of the states — including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka — do not require massive forces and you can reduce the time frame. But because of our restriction of movement of such a huge number of people, there is a constraint. Also, this is the season when people go on vacations. We have to take all this into consideration and there is also some sort of a physical fatigue in our boys. I can’t expect them to go to one place today and then leave for another the next morning. We have to plan it in such a continued…