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Resource plans to guide poll dates

Guwahati, Feb. 15: Concern over the Northeast’s security situation has prompted the Election Commission to consider a region-specific Lok Sab-ha poll schedule that will allow optimum and effective inter-state sharing of the scarce resources at hand.

Though the poll panel has a fair idea of the region’s needs and demands following a conclave of chief electoral officers in Delhi on February 4, it will meet officers from the region separately at a meeting in Guwahati sometime this month before taking a final call. The commission, sources said, has been particularly wary because of the heavy demands for additional security personnel for the region, particularly by Assam, Manipur and Tripura.

The terror attacks in Tripura and Assam last year and increasing threats from militants in Manipur have only compounded the security concerns.

Assam and Manipur have sought around 260 and 86 companies of central security personnel, a source said.

Assam, in fact, has pitched for a two-phase poll like last time.

“The Election Commission will not take any chances. Therefore, it will meet the chief electoral officers of the region in Guwahati before preparing the final schedule. As things stand today, the schedule will be vastly different from the ones followed in the 2004 elections so that all poll-related resources — from security to poll officials to transport — are adequately deployed in these states. Since there are 25 seats in the region, including Sikkim, a separate schedule for the Northeast is most likely this time given the security scenario of the region,” the source said.

Since requirements for both security and transportation are far larger compared to Assembly elections, Assam has mooted that polls be held there first, as it is the “gateway” to the Northeast and has the maximum seats, (14), and then move inwards to other states.

There are indications that polls will be held simultaneously in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya. The forces and poll personnel brought from outside these states can then be moved to Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura and Mizoram.

While the poll panel does its own planning, the Congress high command is rushing All India Congress Committee general secretary Prithviraj Chauhan to Arunachal Pradesh to assess if parliamentary and Assembly elections can be held simultaneously in the state.

Chauhan will be in the state for a two-day visit, the dates for which have not been decided yet.

Home minister Jarbom Gamlin today said Chauhan would help the party decide the tentative poll dates for the state. Though the home minister refused to comment any further, a party insider, on conditions of anonymity, said the Congress was in favour of simultaneous polls.

During the last elections, a two-phase poll was held in Manipur and Assam along with Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Orissa.

But the first phase of polls in the two states, on April 20, coincided with polls in Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura. However, the date for Tripura was later changed to April 22.

“This time there will be more fine tuning. It will be more Northeast specific,” a source said.

Lok Sabha seats

  • Assam: 14
  • Meghalaya: 2
  • Nagaland: 1
  • Arunachal Pradesh: 2
  • Manipur: 2
  • Mizoram: 1
  • Tripura: 1
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