The Saran district officials on Tuesday got a clean chit from the state’s chief electoral officer in Rabri Devi’s vehicle-checking episode.
The chief electoral officer, Ajay V. Naik, said: “In my opinion, all the guidelines of the Election Commission were adhered to while checking the vehicle of the candidate concerned. The report of the Saran district magistrate-cum-district returning officer has been sent to the Election Commission (EC). I hope it would agree with the report.”
On the probable action against the RJD chief Lalu Prasad, who rebuked the police personnel for checking Rabri’s vehicle, Naik said: “Persons of such a stature should refrain from such activities.”
The officer clarified that the district police and administrative officials had launched the vehicle-checking drive to prevent the (mis)use of money in the elections.
The vehicle of Rabri — the RJD candidate in the Saran Lok Sabha constituency — was intercepted for checking at Sonepur in Saran district on Saturday night. Lalu had sniffed murder or defamation plot in the move and Rabri had lodged an FIR against the BJP’s Saran candidate, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, and the Sonepur police station in-charge.
Saran would go to the polls on Wednesday with six other constituencies, including Maharajganj.
Naik, the chief electoral officer said, a special observer — Uttar Pradesh cadre IAS officer Sanjay Bhus Reddy — has been deployed to oversee the preparations for the election in the Maharajganj parliamentary constituency from where sitting RJD MP Prabhunath Singh is contesting elections. “Maharajganj may be sensitive from the political point of view. But for us, Maharajganj is like any other constituency going to polls,” he added.
Referring to a new initiative taken by the EC before the eighth phase of the Lok Sabha polls in the country (fifth in Bihar), Naik said for the first time the opinion of the candidates had been sought before finalising the deployment of the central forces at the polling booths. “The candidates were asked to furnish the list of the sensitive polling booths and the decisions were taken accordingly,” he said, adding that the new measure was taken by the EC to disdain allegations of any bias.
Talking about another confidence building measures initiated by the EC to ensure free and fair elections, Naik said the presiding officers had been told to maintain logbooks separately and mention therein the names as well as time of arrival and departure of the polling agents of the candidates.
Naik said: “The idea is to have documentary proof about the activities of the polling agents of the respective candidates, who often indulge in accusations against polling personnel after leaving the polling booths midway. The logbooks would also have the signatures of the polling agents.”
In addition, the presiding officers have been vested with the power of lodging complaints against police personnel deployed at the polling booth. Earlier, only the personnel of the central security forces came under their ambit.
The EC has also made it mandatory to display the cellphone/telephone numbers of the poll observers, district returning officers and the superintendents of police outside the polling booths so that the voters could lodge complaints directly to them. Earlier, the polling booths had only the telephone numbers of the control room.
Additional director-general (headquarters) Ravinder Kumar said 2,842 criminals had been externed across the state to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections.