The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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EC chief rules out poll delay

Calcutta, Jan. 19: Chief election commissioner B.B. Tandon today ruled out any delay in holding Assembly polls in Bengal.

'There is no question of deferring the polls. The election schedule has not yet been finalised but elections will be held before the expiry of the legislative Assembly term. Four other states will go to polls along with Bengal,' he said at the city airport.

Earlier this week, CPM state secretary Anil Biswas had threatened to launch a mass uprising if polls were delayed on the ground of revision of voters' list. Biswas's statement drew criticism from the Congress, BJP and the Trinamul Congress who demanded that the polls be held only after revising the list. Biswas has welcomed Tandon's observation that polls will be held on time.

Tandon arrived at the airport this morning on his way to Assam and held an hour-long meeting with state chief electoral officer Debashish Sen. He said Bengal's final electoral rolls would be published by February 15.

Tandon said the commission had received many applications from Bengal for inclusion of names in the electoral rolls. Several complaints were also received, which mainly related to bogus voters and inclusion of names of dead people in the voters' list.

'Cleaning up the electoral rolls is our top priority. Our observers have looked into a section of complaints themselves and have given their observations. District officials are also cross-checking and verifying the complaints. The last date for disposal of applications has been extended from January 16 to January 24,' he added. The election observers submitted their reports to the Election Commission in Delhi yesterday.

Referring to 'negligence' on part of errant poll officials, Tandon said strict action would be initiated against them. 'Remember that they are now our officials,' he said.

Tandon said special emphasis would be given on photo-identity cards and a software had been developed in Bengal to help the process of identifying genuine voters.

Replying to a question, the chief election commissioner said no decision had been taken on deployment of security forces in the state for the polls. 'But all necessary steps will be taken to ensure free and fair polls,' he added.

Biswas alleged that both the Congress and the Trinamul had tried to hatch a conspiracy to get the elections deferred on the pretext of bogus names appearing on the electoral rolls. 'The chief election commissioner's assurance has shown that the poll panel has given due respect to parliamentary democracy,' he said.

In another development, police busted a racket in fake voters' identity cards, ration cards, birth and SC/ST certificates in Bongaon of North 24-Parganas last night.

'One person was arrested last night, while three more were arrested today. We've also seized computers, a printing press and government seals,' said inspector-general (law and order) Raj Kanojia.

Police will inform the chief electoral officer office as the matter involves fake voters' identity cards, Kanojia said.

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