Govt. told to be ‘fearless and unbiased’ to ensure fair polls
Kohima, Feb. 15 (EMN): Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) OP Rawat, who is on a two-day visit to review the poll preparedness in Nagaland, has directed the Nagaland state administration to be ‘fearless and unbiased’ in ensuring a free, fair and transparent election.
Addressing a press conference at Hotel Japfü, Rawat spoke about the commission’s assessment. He and a team of seven top-ranking officials from the Election Commission of India (EC) held meetings with the state administration and representatives of all the political parties during the visit.
Undue influence by councils, religious platforms
The CEC said some political parties have demanded that steps should be taken to prevent undue influence on voters by village councils in some areas. Rawat said the Nagaland home commissioner has outlined steps to be undertaken to ensure all the candidates have free access to campaigning.
“Village councils will be impressed upon that they need not take law into their own hands,” he said. With regard to election related violence reported from Wokha and Mokokchung districts, Rawat assured that necessary instructions will be given to the DEOs and SPs to take proactive steps in all such cases.
“It is the ECI’s declared objective that no private individual should be harassed by way of property defacement or any such activity,” he said. So far, 14 cases have been registered in connection with election-related clashes.
He also pointed out that political parties have raised concern over use of religious platforms to influence voters. Another concern, he said, was the abuse of money.
“The Commission has given directions to the state election machinery to ensure effective monitoring and vigilance, comprehensive planning at all levels to address the concern of the political parties and instil confidence in the voters for the exercise their franchise without fear, coercion, intimidation or inducement,” Rawat stated.
He also mentioned that some of the political parties have raised apprehension over election-related violence and asked for effective action to prevent poll-related and post-poll violence. One particular concern was raised for Kiphire district, he said, and assured that the law enforcement agencies were bracing to meet any situation.
Only 27% polling stations have ramps
On the state’s compliance status of Assured Minimum Facilities (AMF) of the 2156 polling stations for 59 assembly constituencies (AC), Rawat expressed concern that ramp facility is available only in 27.26% polling stations. He said other facilities like drinking water, toilets, electricity and waiting room/shade were mostly covered.
Rawat informed that the issue of providing AMF at all the polling stations has been taken up with the chief secretary and the state government has been directed to complete the facilities at the earliest. The state administration has assured that the provisions, particularly ramps, will be provided at all polling stations within next week.
When pointed out there were cases with the state election department where candidates addressing press conferences have been treated as paid news, CEC clarified that calling a regular press conference is part of campaigning, and does not come under the purview of the PCI/ECI’s purview of ‘paid news’.
He said that political parties have expressed satisfaction at the ECI’s decision to shift nomination process from DEOs to ROs that it helped in orderly conduct of the whole process.
Reporters present pointed out that media houses were however dismayed as information was delayed to the extent that the entire data was made available a day later, that too, with wrong figures. To this, the CEC said the chief electoral officer (CEO) will take note of the matter and the flow of information should be streamlined.