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Security plea for separate elections

Hyderabad, Aug. 9: Chief election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh today again spoke out against simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and the Assemblies, saying it would lead to “sub-standard elections”.

While agreeing that the step could reduce the cost of elections, Lyngdoh argued that inadequate police deployment would lead to “cheating and unfair polling”. “The major hurdle is the lack of sufficient security forces to conduct free and fair polls in the country,” he told reporters during a day-long trip to Andhra Pradesh.

“We have some notorious states, each needing about 400 companies of paramilitary forces (for polling duties). At no stage (during separate polls) did the home ministry provide us 400 companies at a time,” he said.

“Bad states will take advantage of the situation and do whatever they want,” Lyngdoh said, indicating that the ganging up of parties and bureaucrats leads to a situation “worse than criminalisation (of politics)”.

“Where are these one million policemen (needed for polling duties in the event of simultaneous polls) going to come from, unless they are coming from Pakistan,” the chief election commissioner wondered.

Asked how the past three polls were conducted simultaneously, Lyngdoh said times were different then. “In those days, the entire polling was done in a single day. Now we have to space it out in two or three rounds.”

The chief election commissioner clarified that he had never held simultaneous polls as “unconstitutional”. “I had only termed it as a violation of the democratic spirit of life of an elected House,” he said, adding that during talks between law minister Arun Jaitley and his fellow election commissioner, G. Krishnamurthy, it had emerged that constitutional changes were needed for joint polls.

“If the government makes it constitutional by an amendment, then we will abide by it,” he said.

Declining to give any deadline for elections to five states later this year, Lyngdoh said “in one of the states, the election process has to be completed by December. So polls will be held before that”.

He also clarified that the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh had not asked that polls be pushed back by a month. “They do not know when the polls will be held, how can they ask for an extension'” he said.

Replying to questions on the Magsaysay award he has received, Lyngdoh said it came for the good work done by the institution he represented — the Election Commission. Lyngdoh had boosted the credibility of Nirvachan Sadan by refusing to buckle under pressure from the Narendra Modi government for early polls in Gujarat.

“The polls conducted in Gujarat and Jammu and Kashmir had strengthened belief in the democratic institutions,” the chief elections commissioner added.

Hyderabad home

In a rare opening up, Lyngdoh said he planned to settle down near Hyderabad after his retirement. “I will be coming here for good after six months,” he said.

During his four-year stint at the National Institute for Rural Development, Lyngdoh had made up his mind to make Hyderabad his home after retirement.

“After selling my flat at Banjara Hills, I purchased a plot near Chevella (about 40 km from the city) where I will construct a house and settle down,” he said.

Asked why he has chosen the city, the Magsaysay awardee quipped “because east, west, north and south meet here”.

He also revealed that he has penned a travelogue on his journeys, sans the years as the chief election commissioner, which will be published soon.

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