The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ballot big boss shifts to election top gear

New Delhi, Feb. 9: The Election Commission has launched into hectic poll preparations a day after its new chief took charge.

“We are going to have a meeting of directors-general of police this weekend. The exercise should be over by early next week,” a commission official said.

Chief election commissioner T.S. Krishnamurthy, who took over from J.M. Lyngdoh, had yesterday said the panel would finalise poll dates after meetings with the directors-general of police, home ministry officials and state chief secretaries. Indications are the polls will be held in four phases in the middle of April.

Since morning today, a string of visitors knocked on the doors of the commission. Uttar Pradesh chief secretary B.K. Dewan came calling to say electoral rolls revision was progressing on schedule.

“By February 20, we will complete the draft revision of voters’ rolls. The final voters’ lists will be ready by March 20,” he said. The state has 11 crore voters of whom 3 crore speak Urdu.

Three teams of the commission have been sent to Orissa to supervise its rolls revision and take stock of the ground situation. Similar teams have already been sent to Sikkim and Tamil Nadu.

The voters’ list in Tamil Nadu shows a 74 per cent voter ratio, which is higher than the national average of 66 per cent of those above 18, the age when a citizen becomes eligible to vote. Andhra Pradesh, too, had showed a similar figure.

The commission has asked Bengal to straighten its voters’ list. “In West Bengal, we do not have the kind of problems we have had in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu with a discrepancy between the voter and the population ratio,” an official said.

“We do not have this problem in West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where the below-18 population is more,” the official explained.

Deputy election commissioner Noor Mohammad will leave for Bihar tomorrow.

The two warring factions of the Nationalist Congress Party, led by Sharad Pawar and P.A. Sangma, today handed in further submissions to the poll panel. Both groups claim the party symbol on the basis of majority support and will be given a final hearing by the commission on Friday.

The Pawar group claimed “overwhelming” support of MPs, MLAs and office-bearers and submitted supporting documents.

Lawyers of the rival group claimed their documents were “real and original” as the Sangma faction enjoyed majority in the state units.

Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna, too, called on the commission to find if Assembly polls could be held in his state along with the Lok Sabha elections. The Assembly’s tenure ends in October.

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