Four-phase polls welcome, but ensure free and fair elections, Maharashtra parties tell EChttps://indianexpress.com/elections/four-phase-polls-welcome-but-ensure-free-and-fair-elections-maharashtra-parties-tell-eci-5619952/

Four-phase polls welcome, but ensure free and fair elections, Maharashtra parties tell EC

Soon after the election dates and schedule were announced, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) said it will end the misuse of public money by the BJP.

Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, center, speaks during a press conference in New Delhi, March 10, 2019. (AP)

Political parties welcomed the four-phase Lok Sabha election schedule for the state, announced by the Election Commission of India on Sunday, even as they claimed that Maharashtra was not a sensitive state as was being projected.

Soon after the election dates and schedule were announced, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) said it will end the misuse of public money by the BJP. “The BJP was on a spree of inaugurating and advertising projects and making tall claims. The public money was being misused by the BJP. It will now come to end,” party’s chief spokesperson Nawab Malik said. The Model Code of Conduct which came into effect on Sunday bars the government from announcing any policy move that may impact voters’ decision.

Urging the Election Commission to play “proactive role” for free and fair polls, Malik said if elections are held properly across the country, the BJP will not remain in power. “In the four-phase poll (in Maharashtra), the EC should ensure impartial polls. We hope the ECI will lay full emphasis on free and fair polling,” he said, adding that the NCP was ready for the elections in the state.

Echoing the views, Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said the announcement of poll schedule will effectively put an end to the attempts by the BJP-led government to misuse official machinery for the party’s sake. “Though we don’t believe that there was a need for a four-phase polling in Maharashtra, as it was not a sensitive state, we are happy that finally it has been announced without any further delay,” he said.

Stating that the onus is on the EC to ensure free and fair polling, Sawant said, “We are not sure what reasons the EC has given while announcing four-phase polling in Maharashtra. The elections in the state were always held in two phases. We expect the EC to keep a check on the BJP as it might misuse the official machinery during elections as well.”

Congress spokesperson Hemlata Patil said the BJP seemed to be more excited about the four-phase polling, since its “Pradhan sevak” will get an opportunity to visit every constituency.

Hitting back, BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhaya said, “Yes, Prime Minister is a popular leader and will visit every constituency. For that matter, even Congress president Rahul Gandhi will get an opportunity to visit every constituency.”

Upadhaya said the four-phase polling decision must have been taken by the EC considering school and college examination. “It seems to be part of the EC’s strategy to ensure impartial polls as they will get enough time to get their act right and put in place adequate manpower,” he said.

Communist leader Ajit Abhyankar said the four-phase polling will benefit all the parties as they will get enough time to campaign across the state. “However, the EC should ensure that while moving resources from one region to another, they are done under watchful eyes. The EC will have to be extra alert as the BJP and Shiv Sena might resort to bogus voting on large-scale by shifting them from one region to another,” he said.

Claiming that those making allegations against the BJP were in panic mode, Upadhaya said: “They know they will lose, hence are making false allegations.” Shiv Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe, meanwhile, said the EC has taken all parties by surprise. “The decision of a four-phase poll is welcome. It will give top leaders of all political parties enough time to campaign across the state. The local leaders will also breathe easy. Also, I think by conducting four-phase poll, the EC has put to end all kinds of speculation,” she said.