Voters excluded in NRC can vote, 5000 new poll stations to be set up

Published: January 20,2021 02:45 PM

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January 20, 2021: Voters whose names were omitted from the National Register of Citizens will be able to vote in the coming Assam Assembly polls, informed Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora.

January 20, 2021: Voters whose names were omitted from the National Register of Citizens will be able to vote in the coming Assam Assembly polls, informed Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora on Wednesday.

Addressing media persons in Guwahati before wrapping up of the Election Commission’s 3-day visit to the state, the CEC also said that keeping in view Covid social distancing norms, the maximum number of electors at a polling station has been reduced from 1500 to 1000. This will lead to an increase in the number of polling stations in Assam by about 5000 and likely to be more than 33000 for forthcoming elections.

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.

The timing of voting will also be increased by an hour to ensure that voters can cast vote without any rush. There will be restrictions in campaigning too. Only five persons will be allowed to do door-to-door campaigns.

Dismissing demands for holding the election through ballot papers, Arora announced that the poll will be held through Electronic Voting Machines.

The CEC said that 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.

Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora accompanied by Election Commissioners Sushil Chandra and Rajiv Kumar, alongwith the team of officers from Election Commission of India, conducted an in-depth review of poll preparedness of the state from January 18.

During the visit, the Commission met with representatives of various political parties and noted their issues and concerns. The Commission reviewed the poll preparedness work of District Election Officers, /SPs/ Commissioner of Police, Divisional Commissioners and IGs and also discussed election preparedness with Chief Secretary, DGP, Home Secretary and other senior Officials of the State. Commission reviewed overall poll preparedness with Chief Electoral officer, Police Nodal officer and also the CAPF nodal officer. The Commission also met with Nodal officers of Central  and State Regulatory Agencies like Excise Department, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Income Tax, Enforcement Directorate, Railway and Airports authorities, Security agencies like BSF, SSB, State Level Bankers’ Committee etc to review in detail the strategy to curb misuse of money/drugs/liquor & freebies distribution during the election.

Main points raised by political parties included request to the Commission to keep in view the dates for the Bihu festival while deciding election schedule. Political Party representatives said that such a schedule would encourage more voter turnout and would help avoid period of monsoon too. Keeping in view 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. Need for adequate security even at the remote polling stations and deployment of commensurate security personnel was also cited.

Some representatives drew attention of the Commission of deputing Observers from outside the State. 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 Commission assured that it attaches maximum importance to ensuring conducive environment for free and fair and safe elections in the State. Commission has directed the electoral machinery of the State to gear up with due logistics arrangements.