India / Decision on UP elections after review next week: EC on the advice of the High Court to postpone the election

Zoom News : Dec 25, 2021, 09:12 AM
Lucknow: The election commission would examine the Allahabad high court’s observation to postpone Uttar Pradesh assembly polls after analysing the situation in the state, chief election commissioner of India Sushil Chandra said on Friday.

“The Commission will visit Uttar Pradesh next week during which it will analyse the situation there followed by necessary actions on the same,” Chandra said, while addressing a press conference here.

The Allahabad high court on Thursday urged the election commission to consider postponing the polls in Uttar Pradesh considering the increasing threat of Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19. In case the elections could not be postponed, the high court requested the poll body to stop political rallies, which witness large gatherings, and to direct the political parties to campaign through Doordarshan and print media instead.

Assembly elections in five states, including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa, are scheduled for early next year.

Chandra, along with election commissioners Rajiv Kumar and Anoop Chandra Pandey, was in Uttarakhand for a two-day visit to review preparedness for the elections to 70-member legislative assembly.

The CEC, citing the Covid-19 precautions, said the commission has identified various grounds and buildings where the candidates could hold their election rallies.

“To ensure that social distancing is maintained in the rallies amid Covid-19 scare, the commission has identified 601 grounds and 277 buildings across Uttarakhand for holding rallies. Their details would soon be put online so that the candidates can book them as per their requirement,” Chandra said, adding the venues would be given on first come first serve basis.

Chandra also announced that the commission has decided to increase voting period by one hour in Uttarakhand, considering the difficult terrain in the hill state.

“Under a move which would be commenced from Uttarakhand, the ECI has decided to increase the voting period by one hour due to the difficult terrain in many areas of the state posing difficulty for the voters to reach the polling booths. Under this the new voting period would be from 8am to 6pm instead of 8am-5pm,” Chandra said, after concluding the two-day visit to Himalayan state.

The CEC said candidates that have criminal background “will have to reveal details about the ongoing criminal cases against them before the public”.

“Those candidates would have to get the details of their cases published thrice in newspapers. They will also have to share the details on news channels. Besides, the onus will also be on the political parties to do the same exercise for their candidates having criminal background. They will have to inform the voters, the reason behind fielding a candidate with criminal background so that they know what sort of candidates are contesting before exercising their franchise,” said Chandra.

“Social media will also be strictly monitored to check posts related to hate speech or any sort of discrimination, if any, so that proper action can be taken by the commission.”

The poll body has also decided to take strict measures to stop liquor, drugs or freebies being offered to the voters to influence them, which “vitiates the election process”, the CEC said. He added that the commission would monitor all airports, airstrips and intra-and-inter-state crossings to curb such activities.

“Expenditure observers will also be appointed in the state during elections to monitor the expenditure by various candidates on poll campaign,” Chandra said.

The commission will also make arrangements to ensure each polling booth has a reduced capacity of 1,200 voters instead of 1,500 at present, the CEC said.

“This has been done to ensure proper social distancing during the voting. Due to this move the ECI will set up 623 more polling booths taking the total polling booths in the state to 11,447. With the total 81.43 lakh (roughly 8.14 million) registered voters in state, on an average, there would be at least 700 voters at each polling booth,” said Chandra.

Uttarakhand will also have 100 polling booths managed completely by women while five polling booths will be managed by differently abled officials, Chandra said.

“Of the total 81.43 lakh voters, 66,648 are differently abled, 1.43 lakh are above 80 years of age and 93,935 voters are servicemen,” Chandra said.

“Among them, the ones who are 80 plus, would be given a facility to cast their vote through ballot paper at their home only, for which the electoral officer would go to their places. The political parties will be informed about it and proper videography will be done to ensure the secrecy and transparency of the whole process. Similarly, the servicemen voters would also be able to cast their votes through ballots,” Chandra said, adding that the “Commission will take all necessary steps to ensure an unbiased, transparent, free and fair elections”.

The CEC on Thursday had met representatives of different political parties in Uttarakhand, the state’s chief secretary and director general of police.