February 12, 2021 8:33:43 am
The Election Commission Thursday said central forces will play a larger role in poll-bound states including Tamil Nadu to ensure fairness in the voting process.
Speaking in Chennai ahead of the Tamil Nadu polls, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora also said Special Expenditure Observers will be sent to the state to address the persistent issue of cash distribution among voters. The EC has also decided to extend polling hours in the state by an hour, he said.
Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Assam and Puducherry are likely to go to polls in April or May. During polls in all the five states, the Central Armed Police Forces coordinator will be part of the panel that allocates and decides on the deployment and movement of personnel.
Arora stated that the central forces will play a key role in ensuring a free and fair election adding that the decision was taken based on feedback from political parties. He said the extension of polling hours was also based on suggestions from political party representatives and the existing physical distancing norms.
Arora said the two Special Expenditure Observers being sent to prevent the distribution of money to voters will be retired officials from senior government positions such as Secretary to the Government of India or Chairman of Central Board of Direct Taxes.
The CEC said the commission will allow postal ballots for citizens above 80 years even if there were differing opinions from parties in Tamil Nadu, claiming there was no malpractice in this regard during the Bihar polls.
He stated that the EC expects a much higher voter turnout than usual. There will be 25,000 more polling booths in Tamil Nadu considering the pandemic.
The bypoll to the Kanyakumari Lok Sabha seat, where the seat fell vacant following the death of Congress MP H Vasanthakumar last year, also will be held alongside the Assembly polls.
The top official expressed displeasure over the work by some regulatory arms of the Tamil Nadu government ahead of the notification of state polls. “When we had the meeting of the regulatory agencies, I must say we were quite unhappy with the overall performance of the state excise department as well as the Special DG enforcement. We have brought the relevant facts to the notice of the Chief Secretary.” Arora said the EC was disappointed about non apprehension of the ‘big fish’.
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