The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bihar model for Bengal

New Delhi, Nov. 22: Bengal, which votes in a few months, could see the Election Commission repeating its “Bihar model” for free and fair polls.

Congratulated for its smooth conduct of elections in a state known for violence-ridden polling, the commission is expected to stick to its winning strategy when Bengal goes to polls next year, along with Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Pondicherry and Assam.

Allegations of malpractice are widespread in Bengal, which has also contributed the phrase “scientific rigging” ' rigging without use of violence, by wearing out voters ' to the election lexicon.

The first congratulatory message to the poll panel came, expectedly, from the winner: Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United). “There was a myth that free and fair elections were not possible in Bihar and the EC has destroyed that myth,” he said.

For the poll panel, Bihar was one of its biggest achievements since the Kashmir elections three years ago. The success was attributed, among other things, to better management of security forces. Unlike in the past, rural centres were well covered. The four-phase polling helped.

In select cases, where a sitting MP was seen as a threat to fair polling, district magistrates barred their entry. As a result, MPs like Subhash and Sadhu Yadav and Mohammad Shahabuddin were kept out of their own areas. The poll process was not vitiated and repolling was negligible.

Widespread preventive arrests made ahead of each phase kept violence in check.

With digital cameras to record polling and the majority of voters covered with photographic evidence of identity, the “Bihar model” was geared to succeed.

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