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Panel reviews Tripura poll preparations

Agartala, Jan. 5: Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath and election commissioners H.S. Brahma and Syed Nasim Ahmad Zaidi, who reached here this morning, indicated that the Assembly polls in Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura could be held between February 24 and 27.

“I have told you the outer limit as the term of the Assembly in Tripura expires on March 16 while the entire month of March will be occupied by examinations conducted by the central as well as state boards of secondary education. You can speculate but we will make an announcement soon,” Sampath said.

The three-member Election Commission team, accompanied by senior officials, had reached Nagaland last Thursday. They held meetings with officials and political parties yesterday before arriving at Agartala this morning.

Sampath, flanked by Brahma and Zaidi, told reporters here in the afternoon that he had assured delegates of the Left Front, Congress and the BJP that their grievances would be addressed.

“The Left Front sought election by the middle of February while the Congress wanted it by the end of next month. The Congress delegates also pressed for correct electoral rolls and adequate security arrangements. We have assured the parties that the commission would take all steps to ensure this,” he added.

The Chief Election Commissioner said he had held meetings with poll officials, superintendents of police, district magistrates, director-general of police S.K. Sinha and chief secretary S.K. Panda. He said he had asked all of them to maintain neutrality and integrity in their work.

He said Tripura was the only state where there was hundred per cent coverage of voters by photo-affixed identity cards but still the Election Commission would arrange for distribution of photo-affixed voter slips to enable voters to cast ballots even if they lost their voter I-cards.

He said the final electoral roll would be published on January 12 but genuine voters, left out of the process, would be allowed to enrol their names till the last day of filing nomination.

Speaking on the issue of paid news marring the election process, Sampath said the Election Commission would constitute district-level committees to monitor the expenditure pattern and fund mobilisation by candidates and parties to deal with the issue.

“Apart from this, the state government has brought to our notice the issue of security, specially the possibility of militant elements infiltrating through the unfenced parts of the border. We will ask the Union home ministry make sure that adequate forces are deployed to prevent any untoward incident,” he said.

The Election Commission team left for Calcutta in the evening. They will reach Shillong tomorrow to oversee the preparation work for the Assembly elections there.

The CPM expressed satisfaction over its discussion with the Election Commission. A three-member delegation of the party, comprising senior leaders Gautam Das, Narayan Rupini and Haripada Das, met the commission and complained against false allegations being made by the Congress. They urged the commission to ensure that elections are organised by the middle of February.

PCC president Sudip Roy Barman, leader of the Opposition Ratanlal Nath and Congress spokesman Ashok Sinha also met the Election Commission members and urged upon them to ensure preparation of an error-free electoral roll. The Congress delegation demanded election latest by the end of February.