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Bengal bags a poll ‘best’

New Delhi, Jan. 22: Bengal can finally say it is one of the “best” — electorally speaking, of course.

The Election Commission has picked the state along with two others for the best “all-round” handling of Assembly polls, though the (rare) feather in the cap should be satisfying on another account as well.

It’s in the same league as Narendra Modi’s “Vibrant” Gujarat.

“Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Bengal have been selected the best states for their all-round management by a committee formed by the Election Commission,” the panel’s director-general, Akshay Raut, said.

On Friday, chief electoral officers of the three states will receive an award from Vice-President Hamid Ansari at an event to mark the third anniversary of national voters’ day, held on January 25 every year. This is the first time the commission has decided to give a “best state” award, aimed at encouraging better electoral practices and spreading awareness among voters.

Raut said the selections were based on parameters like peaceful holding of elections and fighting money power. Commission sources said Bengal made it to the list because the 2011 polls, which ended 34 years of Left rule, were held peacefully amid apprehensions of large-scale violence by Maoists and the charged-up political atmosphere.

Uttar Pradesh went to the polls early last year while Gujarat voted in December.

Raut also spoke of the high voter turnout and credited it to the massive awareness drive the commission had launched. He said there had been record turnouts in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, which also voted late last year.

Raut said in the one year till January 1, 2013, more than 2.32 crore new voters had been enrolled, including 93 lakh in the 18-19 age group. He said the number of voters in the country was now 77.78 crore, of whom 36.9 crore were women and 1.76 crore were between 18 and 19. The figures, he added, could change marginally once the latest additions are taken into account.

EVM printout

The Election Commission today told the Supreme Court it had developed a prototype appendage to electronic voting machines so that a voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) printout could be taken to avoid misgivings that EVMs had been tampered with.

Senior counsel Ashok Desai said the VVPAT was being developed in a such a way that once a voter casts his ballot, a small printout would come out of the EVM indicating the voter’s choice. Desai said the printout could be used as a supplementary evidence in case of a dispute.