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Election Commission announces assembly poll dates for 5 states

File photo of Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi.
File photo of Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi.

The Election Commission today announced dates for crucial state legislative assembly elections in five states, with polling to be held in six phases from April 18 to May 10 in West Bengal, in two phases in Assam on April 4 and 11 and single-day polls on April 13 in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.

Notifications for the elections to all 234 assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu, 140 in Kerala and 30 in the Union Territory of Puducherry will be issued on March 19 and the last date for making nominations is March 26.

In Assam, 62 of the 126 constituencies will go to the polls in the first phase on April 4, for which the notification will be issued on March 10. The remaining 64 constituencies will have polling on April 11, for which the notification will be issued on April 18.

The last date for making nominations will be March 17 for the first phase and March 25 in the second phase.

In West Bengal, 54 of the 294 constituencies will go to the polls in the first phase of polling on April 18, 50 in the second phase on April 23, 75 in the third phase on April 27, 63 in the fourth phase on May 3, 38 in the fifth phase on May 7 and 14 in the sixth and last phase on May 10.

Notifications for the six phases will be issued on March 23, March 30, April 2, April 7, April 11 and April 14. The last dates for making nominations for these phases will be March 31, April 6, April 9, April 14, April 18 and April 21, an official press release from the Election Commission said.

Counting of votes in all the five states will be taken up on May 13 and all the results are expected to be in by that evening.

The term of the present assembly in Tamil Nadu will expire on May 16, in Kerala on May 23, Puducherry and Assam on May 28 and West Bengal on June 11.

As per established practice, the Election Commission holds elections together to the legislative assemblies of States and Union Territories whose terms expire almost at the same time.

The Commission is required under the Constitution to hold elections and constitute the new assemblies in these states before the expiry of their present terms.

In Tamil Nadu, 44 of the constituencies are reserved for Scheduled Castes and 2 for Scheduled Tribes, 14 and 2 in Kerala, 8 and 16 in Assam, and 68 and 16 in West Bengal. In Puducherry, 5 seats for reserved for Scheduled Castes.

The release said the electoral rolls of all the existing assembly constituencies in the five states had been revised with reference to 1.1.2011 as the qualifying date and had been finally published.

As per the final rolls, the number of electors is 4,59,50,620 in Tamil Nadu, 2,29,40,408 in Kerala, 8,05,124 in Puducherry, 1,81,45,914 in Assam and 5,60,91,973 in West Bengal.

For the first time, in accordance with the recent amendment to the Representation of People Act, overseas Indian citizens have been enabled to be enrolled as voters and would be able to vote in person. The release said election officials had been suitably instructed to facilitate the process of their registration as voters.

The Commission said that, based on the assessment of the ground situation, Central Police Forces (CPF) and State Armed Police (SAP) drawn from other States would be deployed the elections. It said the CPF and SAP would be used generally for safeguarding the polling stations,. the electors, poll-material and the polling personnel. Besides, these forces will be used for securing the strong rooms where the electronic voting machines (EVMs) are stored pending counting and for securing the counting centres.

The Commission said it had been issuing instructions from time to time with regard to the advance preventive measures to be taken by the District Magistrates and police authorities to maintain law and order and to create an atmosphere conducive for the conduct of free and fair elections.

The Commission will be constantly monitoring the ground situation closely and will take appropriate measures to ensure peaceful, free and fair polls in these States, it said.

The release said the Commission would deploy General Observers in adequate number to ensure smooth conduct of elections. The observers will be asked to keep a close watch on every stage of the electoral process to ensure free and fair elections. Their names, addresses within the district/ constituency and their telephone numbers will be publicized in local newspapers so that the general public can quickly approach them for any grievance redressal. The observers will be given a detailed briefing by the Commission before their deployment.

The Commission has also decided to appoint adequate number of Expenditure Observers and Assistant Expenditure Observers who will exclusively monitor the election expenditure of the contesting  candidates.

For greater transparency and for ease of monitoring of election expenses, candidates would be required to open a bank account and incur their election expenses from that very account. Comprehensive instructions for the purpose of effective monitoring of the election expenditure of the candidates have been separately issued by the Commission and are available at ECI website.

In addition to General Observers, the Commission will also deploy micro-observers to observe the poll proceedings in the polling stations on the poll day in selected critical polling stations. They will be chosen from officials of the Central Government and Central public sector undertakings (CPSUs) .

The release said micro-observers will observe the proceedings at the polling stations on the poll day right from the mock poll to the completion of poll and the process of sealing of EVMs and other documents to ensure that all instructions of the Commission are complied with by the polling parties and the polling agents.

These micro-observers will work directly under the control and supervision of the General Observer. They will be tasked to ensure purity of polling process and will report to the General Observers directly about any vitiation of the poll proceedings in their allotted polling stations.

The Commission said it expected all officials engaged in the conduct of elections to discharge their duties in an impartial manner without any fear or favour. They are deemed to be on deputation to the Commission and shall be subject to its control, supervision and discipline.

"Several instructions have been issued from time to time to ensure impartiality of officials who are engaged in the conduct of elections. The conduct of all Government officials who have been entrusted with election-related responsibilities and duties would remain under constant scrutiny of the Commission and strict action shall be taken against those officials who are found wanting on any account," the release said.

The Commission has already given instructions that no election-related official or police officer of the rank of Sub Inspector and above shall be allowed to continue in his home district. Besides, instructions have also been issued that election-related officials, including police officials, who have completed three years in a district during last four years should be transferred out of that district.

The State Governments have also been asked to transfer all those officers against whom the Commission has recommended disciplinary action or who have been charged for any lapse during previous elections or for any election related work, from positions entailing any election work.

The State Governments have been instructed to ensure that those who stand transferred shall move out physically from their last place of posting and shall not remain there on any pretext including leave. The Commission has also instructed the State Governments not to associate any officer with the electoral process against whom charges have been framed in a court of law in any case.

According to the release, the number of polling stations will be 54016 in Tamil Nadu, 20758 in Kerala, 23813 in Assam, 51919 in West Bengal and 851 in Puducherry.

For the facility of physically challenged persons, instructions have been issued to ensure that all polling stations are located at ground floor and ramps are provided. Facilitation shall also be provided for locating electors’ names in a polling station or a group of polling stations through help lines and facilitation centres.

The release said all critical events related to the elections will be video-graphed. District Election Officers will arrange sufficient number of video and digital cameras and camera teams for the purpose. The events for videography will include filing of nomination, scrutiny thereof and allotment of symbols, First Level Checking, preparations and storage of EVMs, important public meetings, processions and so on during the campaign, process of dispatching of postal ballot papers, polling process in identified vulnerable polling stations, storage of polled EVMs, counting of votes and so on.

Digital cameras will also be deployed inside polling booths wherever needed and inside all counting centres. CDs of video recordings will be available on payment to anyone who wishes to obtain a copy.

The Commission said the Model Code of Conduct had come into force with immediate effect. All the provisions of the Model Code will apply to the whole of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry, Assam and West Bengal and will be applicable to all candidates, political parties, the State Governments of Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and UT Administration of Puducherry and the Union Government from today itself.

The Commission drew particular attention of the political parties and candidates to the following provisions of the Model Code:

"There shall be no appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes. Mosques, Churches, Temples or other places of worship shall not be used as forum for election propaganda."

The Commission said it was applying certain innovative practices for the benefit of voters and for better election management in these elections. These include GIS Mapping in election management, online payment to polling staff, security management and voters education and awareness creation. There will also be a call centre and website for complaint redressal. The number of the call centre is 1965, which is a toll-free number.

NNN

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