Panel silent on Assam dates

Final electoral rolls on January 11: CEC

By A Staff Reporter in Guwahati
  • Published 23.12.15
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VVPAT system to be introduced: Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi (right) arrives for a news conference in Guwahati on Tuesday. (PTI)

Guwahati, Dec. 22: The Election Commission of India today remained non-committal on holding the 2016 Assembly polls in Assam before Rongali Bihu in mid-April.

"Even though various political parties have submitted representations to the commission demanding that the Assembly polls be conducted before Bihu, we will take the final decision only after considering various parameters associated with conducting free and fair elections," Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said.

The commissioner said the final electoral rolls would be published in the state on January 11, 2016.

Both the ruling Congress and Opposition parties yesterday met the visiting full bench of the commission headed by Zaidi here and demanded a two-phase Assembly election before Rongali Bihu in April.

Zaidi, who was addressing a news conference before winding up the commission's two-day visit to the city, said it is a constitutional obligation for the commission to complete the entire Assembly poll exercise before June 5. The present Assam Assembly's elected members will complete their five-year term on June 5.

Zaidi, who was accompanied by election commissioners Achal Kumar Joti and Om Prakash Rawat, said the main purpose of their visit was to review the ongoing electoral roll revision and poll preparedness in the state. He said the election commission has laid great emphasis on drafting an error-free and authentic electoral roll for the state.

According to the draft electoral rolls published in October the total number of voters in the state stand at 1.92 crore. Zaidi said there has been an increase of over three lakh voters during the ongoing summary revision of electoral rolls. He said there are six lakh voters in Assam in the age group of 18 and 19 years.

He said since the motto of the commission is to not leave out a single voter from exercising their franchise, it would give opportunities to voters whose names would not figure in the final electoral rolls under its continuous updating scheme.

"During our two-day visit we met different political parties, non-political organisations and state government officials to understand their issues and concerns so that the commission can take effective measures to ensure free and fair polls in the state next year," Zaidi said.

Responding to the demand of preparing the voters' list on the basis of an updated NRC, Zaidi said the commission would take such a call only when NRC update is completed in the state. The All Assam Students' Union met Zaidi yesterday and made this demand.

Zaidi said D-voters would not be able to exercise their franchise till their cases are settled by foreigners tribunals. He said the state government has informed the commission that the number of tribunals has increased to 100 from an existing 36 to expedite the cases.

Zaidi said the commission has taken serious note of concerns raised by some political parties that there would be use of money and muscle power in next year's polls. He said a robust mechanism would be put in place to prevent anyone from influencing, threatening or intimidating voters by any means.

Zaidi said the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system would be introduced in the 2016 Assembly polls. This will enable a voter to know if their vote has gone to the candidate they have voted for or not. A VVPAT is connected to the EVM and a paper ballot comes out once the button on the EVM is pressed. Most of the political parties have demanded introduction of such a system to prevent tampering of EVMs.

The commission has asked all deputy commissioners and superintendents of police to start mapping of vulnerable areas in their respective districts so that security arrangements could be planned during the polls. The district commissioners have asked for the process of deposition of legal arms and seizure of illegal arms to be completed ahead of the polls.

Zaidi said the commission would implement a few information technology-enabled schemes for smooth, free and fair polls.

Zaidi said there would be 250 model polling stations (two each in 126 Assembly constituencies) with all facilities to attract voters to exercise their franchise in a hassle-free manner. There will be about 25,000 polling stations in the state.