The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poll panel keeps leash on Modi

New Delhi, Nov. 2: Keeping the heat on the Narendra Modi government, the Election Commission has sought a compliance report on its directive to transfer senior and junior officers posted in a particular district for the last four years. The commission issued the directive last month to ensure free and fair polls scheduled for December 12.

According to sources, the state government has begun the process of transferring junior level officers. Senior officers, however, have not been touched. The category of senior officers includes superintendents of police, directors-general of police, district superintendents, district magistrates and commissioners, and returning officers, among others. Commission sources said they expected the compliance report in a couple of days.

Keeping in mind Gujarat’s volatile communal situation, the poll panel is taking no chances. It is making every possible move to compel the Modi government to stick to its mandatory model code of conduct. Yesterday, the commission issued a directive to the government, asking it to remove hoardings and posters that smacked of communalism. The directive said the display of such hoardings and advertisements, put up at the expense of public money, violated the code of conduct since they were directed at influencing the voter. After the Godhra carnage, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had put up posters targeting Muslims.

The commission has appointed eight observers, who are expected to visit the state soon. Nirvachan Sadan believes confidence-building measures in Gujarat are very important to ensure the participation of Muslims in the voting process.

Chief election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh has said ordinarily, Gujarat is a state where holding polls would have been an easy task. But in the backdrop of the communal violence recently in the state, the task of ensuring free and fair elections has become difficult.

The sources said the commission will strictly monitor campaigns in Gujarat and no member of a recognised political party will be allowed to make irresponsible statements.

At a recent public meeting in Gujarat, Modi had made derogatory remarks about Muslims and their “large families”, sparking a furore. Still, Modi chose to repeat these remarks after a brief respite. “The commission will monitor the election campaign to prevent any intimidation or slandering of voters,” said an official.

The commission has also asked for 400 battalions of forces from the home ministry, especially for deployment in sensitive areas.

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