The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poll panel gets cracking, just in case

New Delhi, Oct. 8: The Election Commission has directed the chief electoral officers of states to get revised rolls published by mid-January next year, a “routine exercise” that has assumed significance because of the scent of polls in the air.

The directive was communicated by the commission at a review meeting of the electoral officers of the southern and western states called by the poll watchdog today, a commission spokesperson said.

“The Election Commission has directed all chief electoral officers of states to get the electoral rolls for 2008 published by mid-January,” he said.

The commission will hold a similar meeting with the officers of the northern and eastern states tomorrow, he added.

The directive to the officers has come at a time when the UPA and Left allies seem set to part ways on the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, increasing the possibility of general elections early next year.

The commission spokesperson called the meeting a “routine exercise” carried out every year to bring out fresh electoral rolls with January 1 as the base date.

But the poll panel’s move is being widely seen as an attempt to keep itself ready to meet any eventuality and complete the elections within the stipulated maximum period of six months.

Sources said that going by the current level of preparedness, the commission would be able to hold elections within three to four months — well ahead of the six-month deadline — if the stalemate over the nuclear deal leads to early elections.

The sources said the meeting was to be held in September-end but got delayed as many states were at different stages of preparation of the revised electoral rolls.

Some states were behind schedule in revising the rolls, the sources added. “Such states have been asked to speed up the process and get the rolls as on January 1 published by mid-January, which is the deadline for all states,” a source in the commission said.

The spokesperson said the officers of 14 states and Union territories participated in the review meeting today.

Issues like the progress in distribution of Electors Photo Identity Cards (EPIC) and the use of GIS mapping in election management were discussed at the meeting.

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