Calcutta, Aug. 26: The days of last-minute, door-to-door campaign by party activists on the pretext of distributing voter slips are set to be over.
The Election Commission has decided to take sole responsibility for distribution of voter slips ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls as part of a reforms drive to “minimise” malpractices.
Commission officials said once the new system kicks in, the role of political parties in the distribution of the slips would be eliminated.
Bengal chief electoral officer Sunil Kumar Gupta announced the decision today and said the slips would be distributed in September. The Lok Sabha elections are due next year but no dates have been announced yet.
“Voters are to check their details printed on the slips and approach election officials during the time of electoral roll revision for corrections, if necessary,” a commission official said.
The official said attempts by parties to issue voter slips would be treated as a violation of election rules.
The commission has been mulling such a move for around four years and had even experimented with it in the Assembly elections in 2011, although to a limited extent.
“This is something our erstwhile chief election commissioner, S.Y. Quraishi, was very keen on. It would not only help streamline the process of revision but also minimise chances of door-to-door campaigns in the 48 hours before the polls, when canvassing is not allowed,” the commission official said.
“The commission also seeks to minimise chances of bribery by activists of political parties at voter homes in the days before the polls,” the official added.
Voter slips carry key details of voters and, in some cases, also serve as identity proof. If a voter, after getting the slip in September, loses it, he or she can get a copy from booth-level election officials after showing valid identity proof.
Sources said the process of revising the rolls would begin in September, with parties being handed the initial draft, and end by winter. The revised rolls would be published in January.
The poll panel today set the ball rolling for the process of revision with a meeting at Gupta’s office that was attended by all major political parties in the state.
Trinamul Congress leader Mukul Roy asked for a thorough clean-up of the rolls to eliminate bogus names.
“Special care must be taken regarding those who have died or have changed their address. The commission must prevent duplication of names,” he said but declined to comment on the voter-slip decision.
The Left Front’s Rabin Deb, who said he welcomed the commission’s slip-distribution decision, sought an “impartial” and accurate revision.
“Those rendered homeless because of political violence or natural calamities must not be denied the right to have their names on the rolls. The ruling party might try to manipulate the revision process, that must not be allowed,” the CPM state secretariat member said.
Gupta assured the parties that their concerns would be addressed and added that the commission was “very serious” about the revision process.
The meeting was also aimed at informing the parties about the commission’s plans for a public awareness programme over the next couple of months, tapping the opportunity provided by the coming festival season to reach out to people.