Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora while visiting Assam reviewed poll preparedness in the state and met various political parties. Arora said that the parties requested the Election Commission to conduct the assembly election keeping in view the Bihu festival.
Addressing a press conference at Radisson Blu on Wednesday, the Election Commissioner said, “The parties urged to conduct the election before Bihu. The representatives of the political parties said that the elction schedule before Bihu will encourage more voter turnout and would help avoid the period of monsoon too.”
“Keeping in view of the Covid norms of ensuring social distancing, representatives desired that number of polling booths be increased and list of such auxiliary polling booths also be made available, in time, so that parties can organize their own booth committees and logistics in time. The need for adequate security even at the remote polling stations and the deployment of commensurate security personnel was also cited. Some representatives drew the attention of the Commission of deputing observers from outside the State,” said Arora.
Among other issues, some political party representatives desired that expenditure limits be increased; Electors’ Photo Identity Cards be distributed well in time; timelines for publishing the criminal antecedents of contesting candidates in media be made more realistic. Concern for misuse of social media for spreading communal speeches; misuse of government machinery; misuse of money power and covid 19 protocol violations was also mentioned by some representatives. All political parties assured the Commission of their full cooperation in ensuring free, fair and peaceful elections, the Commissioner added.
“Sensitivities about Bihu festival dates will be taken cognizance of and factored in while drawing up the schedule of election dates accordingly. Commission has zero tolerance about misuse of money power or government machinery. In this regard, a specific meeting was held with Enforcement Agencies to crack the whip wherever required,” he stated.
The Commission has also specifically revisited some extant norms keeping in view of Covid social distancing norms. As a result, the maximum number of electors at a polling station has been reduced from 1500 to 1000. Accordingly for the State of Assam, the number of polling stations would go up by about 5000 and likely to be more than 33000 for forthcoming elections. This increase in the number of polling stations in turn would have other logistics and manpower implications, Arora said.
The Commission directed that Assured Minimum facilities at each polling station including drinking water, toilets, waiting area and ramps be provided at all Polling Stations. All Polling Stations should have voter assistance booth. As an extension of AMFs, all Polling Stations will ensure social distancing, sanitizing, temperature check, gloves, etc.