Updated: December 18, 2021 8:41:38 am
Chief Election Commissionner (CEC) Sushil Chandra Thursday said that political parties in Punjab have raised concerns over misuse of money power and distribution of liquor and drugs in the next Assembly polls.
The CEC made the remarks while addressing a press conference here after a high-level team of the Election Commission, including the election commissioners, held meetings over the past two days on the preparedness for the polls in Punjab.
The term of Punjab Assembly is due to expire on March 27, 2022. “ECI is committed to conducting the elections in a free and fair manner and with participation of all voters,” the CEC said.
He added that the commission has met two national and six state-level political parties. “After meeting them, we reviewed poll preparedness with district electoral officers and other nodal officers, including those from excise, income tax, RBI. Discussed strategy to curb distribution of liquor, money and freebies. Political parties raised certain concerns. They were concerned about law and order situation in elections and distribution of drugs and liquor. They asked for deployment of CAPFs (Central Armed Police Forces). They also raised the issue of inequitable treatment by district authorities and partisan behaviour,” Chandra said.
The CEC said that the political parties have desired 100 per cent VVPAT use and 100 per cent webcasting at polling booths. “Cutting across party lines, they wanted EC to take steps for fair conduct of elections. The EC has assured the parties that our endeavour is to encourage maximum voter turnout and free and fair elections,” he said.
The CEC said that ease of voting should be the guiding factor in these polls. He said that female voters have crossed one crore mark on voters’ list of Punjab. There are 2.2 crore voters on electoral rolls of Punjab.
“There are a total number of 29,689 polling booths in Punjab. Except polling booths in border areas which come under shadow space, all polling stations will have webcasting. All polling stations should be accessible to disabled persons,” he said.
For the first time the EC is going to set up 165 all-women polling stations in the state to boost confidence among rural women to come and cast their votes and give a sense of empowerment to them.
A total of 57 polling booths will also be managed by persons with disabilities.
The CEC said that this time around more emphasis will be laid on development of rural polling stations and they will be visited by senior officers. The polling booths will also be Covid-safe and confidence will be placed in the voters to come and vote as all polling stations will be sanitised and kept Covid-free, he said.
“Money power has been mentioned by political parties as a cause for concern along with liquor and drugs. EC has zero tolerance for what vitiates electoral process. Directions have been issued to DCs. Seizure of liquor, drugs and cash have to be dealt with with a heavy hand. Action plan drawn up will be reviewed during our next visit. We have also desired weekly report too from all agencies.
NCB and DRI have been asked to check inter-state movement of drugs. Also, election expenditure monitoring teams will be constituted,” the CEC said.
The CEC said that linking voter card to Aadhaar will help in deleting duplicate votes and will help in maintaining purity of voters.
The commission has already issued guidelines regarding postal ballots by absentee voters in the category of senior citizens, persons with disabilities and Covid-19 suspects or affected persons. The commission during the review meeting directed all DEOs to carry out a focussed drive to enrol all eligible disabled voters.
“The Commission has reviewed the concerns cited about law and order situation with the District Magistrates and police officers. Officials concerned have been directed to ensure speedy execution of non-bailable warrants (NBWs); and speedy disposal of pending cases of the electoral offences from last elections,” he said.
Answering a question on the number of CAPF companies which will be deployed in Punjab, the CEC said, “Vulnerable constituencies have been identified. Adequate CAPF deployment will be ensured so that no one is able to unduly influence the voters or intimidate them.”
Among other measures to ensure ethical elections, emphasis is also being given on mandatory publicity of criminal antecedents.
“As reiterated by the commission, instructions have been issued that candidates will have to advertise thrice in newspapers and TV channels during campaign period. Now it is also mandatory for political parties to publicise in the newspaper, social media and upload on their website detailed information regarding individuals with pending criminal cases selected as candidates, along with reason for such selection, as also why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates,” he said.
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