Guwahati, Jan. 6: The Assam State Election Commission will keep an eye on the upcoming Magh Bihu festivities to prevent political parties from exploiting the occasion to garner votes in the panchayat elections.
Magh Bihu is celebrated to mark the end of the harvesting season according to the Assamese calendar. The youths in villages set up makeshift huts, known as meji, made from bamboo, leaves and thatch, where they enjoy the feast and remain awake throughout the night.
Sources told The Telegraph there was a high possibility that political parties might use the festival to attract the rural voters especially for the first phase of panchayat poll scheduled to be held on January 30.
“Parties might sponsor a gala feast and provide other materials to enable the youths and villagers to enjoy the festival. The commission has strictly asked its officials as well as deputy commissioners to keep a close tab on such activities and report the same immediately to the commission to initiate preventive measures,” the source said.
The state election panel will conduct the election for the 26,844 seats in the three-tier panchayat system in the state in three phases barring the Sixth Schedule areas. The second and third phases of the poll will be held on February 6 and 12.
Sources said the expenditure ceilings in the ensuing election for zilla parishad members, anchalik panchayat members, gaon panchayat presidents and members, have been increased this time in view of the price rise than the previous poll in 2007.
“The increase in ceiling does not imply candidates spend money to lure voters. We have strong reasons to believe that some candidates will do exactly the same,” the source said.
Biren Dutta, chief electoral officer, Assam said the commission would take strong and prompt action against any political party and candidate found guilty of influencing voters by violating the code of conduct. He said even during uruka, the night of feasting of Magh Bihu, the panel would not allow contesting candidates to use loudspeakers between 7pm and 8am.
“Use of loudspeakers has been banned from 7pm to 8am in view of the ensuing matric and higher secondary examinations. But if candidates use loudspeakers taking advantage of the Bihu festivities, the commission would seize the instruments and would not allow their use in the future,” Dutta said.
He expressed the hope that every political party and their candidates would show maturity and responsibility by adhering to the election code of conduct. “We do not apprehend any law and order problem during the election,” Dutta said.