BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, Dec 22: Reiterating its commitment to conduct a free and fair election, the Election Commission today expressed satisfaction at poll preparedness in Assam.
Addressing the media after concluding the two-day visit of the full bench of EC to review poll preparedness in the State, Chief Election Commissioner Dr sim Zaidi said, “We have taken note of all concerns and suggestions. We have put in place an effective mechanism for free and fair conduct of polls.”
He also informed that representatives of all political parties met the EC team on Monday with various demands and suggestions, including holding of polls before Rongali Bihu celebrations in mid-April.
Zaidi said the parties have urged for a completely level playing field, strict implementation of model code of conduct with help of central observers, deployment of central police force at polling stations, maximum use of VVPads, among others.
“Political parties expressed apprehension of use of muscle and money power in the upcoming elections. They also mentioned that the EC should ensure that all state government officials involved in the election process should remain neutral,” Zaidi said.
The CEC further informed that after meeting deputy commissioners and superintendents of police of all districts, they have been directed to map all vulnerable places to ensure free and fair polls. This would include keeping watch on history-sheeters and hooligans, starting the process for depositing licensed arms and seizing unlicensed ones.
Underlying that over 80 percent voter turnout was recorded in the State in the last election, Zaidi said a higher voter turnout is being targeted this time.
Zaidi said the commission will monitor all incidents with political overtones taking place before the assembly polls. “We will try to cover the maximum polling stations with special forces. We will ensure that central police forces are deployed in all polling stations,” he said.
Stating that the poll panel has laid stress on “error-free electoral rolls”, the CEC said they would work towards plugging the gaps between the census population and electoral roll population, and ensure that every eligible person’s me is on the electoral rolls.
The total number of voters on the rolls was 1.92 crore approximately on October 12. This figure includes six lakh new voters of 18 to 19 years of age.
Emphasising on the elector’s photo identity card (EPICs), the poll panel chief said they would plug the existing three percent gap in Assam and ensure that each and every voter gets his or her photo-identity card.
The commission, however, did not filise the dates for the polls. It needs to complete the entire poll process by June 5 next year.
Zaidi said the fil electoral rolls will be published on January 11, but it would be subjected to continuous updating for those left out.
Replying to a question if the election will be held without an updated NRC, Zaidi said, “The EC is not mandated to find out about the NRC. We had a briefing from the AASU and the NRC nodal officer, nothing more.”
On the trend of hate speeches during campaign, Zaidi said the EC will deal strictly with any such offenders as per the law. CEC Zaidi was accompanied by Election Commissioners A.K. Joti and O.P. Rawat.