With the bypolls to elect Vadodara’s new MP scheduled for September 13, newly-appointed Collector and District Election Officer (DEO) Avantika Singh Alaukh is all set to ensure that order prevails during the time the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is in place in the constituency.
With the Ganesh Chaturthi also nearing close, the district election office is tightening its vigil. The bypolls are, however, likely to see subdued campaigns for voter awareness and those by political parties, unlike the General Elections of April.
On Saturday, the day she took charge, Alaukh, held her first meeting with the political parties — Congress, BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party — as part of the pre-poll preparation.
Despite Monday being a government holiday, on account of Janmashtami and Navroz, Alaukh and her team of officials held a marathon session to chalk out the logistics of the upcoming bypolls. She has instructed the district officials to ensure that the voters’ lists are updated and ready for the second round of polls. Aluakh has told her officials to ensure that the MCC is strictly enforced and banned political parties from using religious events as political platforms, given the festivities lined up until the polling day.
This includes the 11-day Ganesh Chaturthi is among the events that political parties and leaders generally use for public interaction. With the MCC in place, political leaders will be forced to keep a low profile during the festivities.
The DEO has instructed the vigilance team of the election department to monitor all possible paid news items and initiate action against those found guilty of indulging in the same during the bypolls. However, the biggest challenge for the administration is to motivate voters for a second round of voting in September.
Alaukh said that the district election office is waiting for instructions from the state election officer. “We are awaiting specific instructions on the SVEEP (The Systematic Voter Education and Electoral Participation) plan from the CEO of Gujarat. Since this is not a countrywide parliamentary election, the campaign may not be as big. But we will continue campaigns according to the CEO’s instructions. We will be extremely particular about enforcing the MCC as we do not want political parties to use any religious events for campaign,” Alaukh said.
Officials in the district election office said the administration is aware of the difficulties in enthusing voters for the upcoming bypolls. An official said: “There is hardly any time to campaign for voter awareness. We might do some banners in the coming week once we receive instructions from the authorities. But we do know that getting a decent percentage of voter turnout might be hard this time.”