Those who predicted poll dates are ‘self-appointed astrologers’: CEC

The Election Commission, which is on a two-day visit to review poll preparations, Tuesday said those who predicted election dates were “self-appointed astrologers”.

The commission’s remarks came a day after state BJP president CR Paatil said that polls in Gujarat will be advanced by 10-12 days and will be completed by November-end.

Without naming any political leader, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar said in a media interaction, “Usually we take a decision on poll dates after reaching Delhi. Media is told about the polls the first. It is a different matter that there are some self-appointed astrologers who have already declared the election dates before our arrival”.

When asked if action would be taken, Kumar said, “ I wish MCC (Model Code of Conduct) was in force. Currently our hands are tied. If MCC was in force we could have reacted immediately.”

Decision on Shiv Sena

CEC Kumar also said that on the issue of Shiv Sena, he would go by “rule of majority”. Responding to a question on the Supreme Court allowing the EC to decide which faction was the “real” Shiv Sena, the CEC said, “I am not into a live telecast of legal decisions. There is a set procedure. That procedure mandates us and we define it in terms of a very transparent process by judging and applying ‘the rule of majority’. We will apply the rule of majority whenever we are looking at it. This will be done after reading the exact decision.”

Webcasting in sensitive booths

The EC has also decided to do live webcasting in more than 50 per cent of the 51,782 polling booths in the state (25,891 booths) that are “sensitive” and “critical” in nature. The decision was following suggestions from political parties.

The commission said it will not only allow polling at homes for Divyangs and for voters aged 80 and above, but will also ask large industries in Gujarat to create a list of workers who do not cast vote on polling day.

“Election will be held in 51,782 polling booths. While we have allowed 1,500 voters in one booth, the average voters per booth in the state is 934 … The commission has also directed webcasting to be done on at least 50 per cent of the booths. Cameras will be installed in these booths, which will record and telecast live feed to the control room. If there is an untoward incident, our teams can reach there. If anything needs to be checked later, then we will have the recording as well. This is very strong action that we are taking in ensuring transparency in the booths. These polling stations will be those which are identified by the administration as the sensitive or critical booths,” Kumar said.

In 2017 assembly elections, about 23,500 polling booths were marked as “sensitive.”

Voting from Home

The Commission said there were 10.36 lakh voters who were aged 80 and above and about 4.13 lakh voters who are divyangs. These voters will be allowed to vote from the comfort of their homes during the upcoming polls.

“If they do not want to come to the booth for some reason or are sick, then they can vote from their homes. They need to fill a form 12D. This form will be opened after nominations are filed. Thereafter BLOs will go the house of voters and fill the form and will make arrangements for voting at their home. The entire process will be video graphed and will allow representatives of the candidates of political parties to go with them… Similarly physically disabled voters will also be entitled to vote from their homes if their disability is more than 40 percent,” Kumar said.

Monitoring workers failing to vote

“We have started a new initiative wherein organisations having 500 or more employees have been requested to appoint a nodal officer to prepare a list of employees who could not vote despite a holiday being provided. We cannot do anything as there is no compulsory voting but we can do a motivational exercise with them,” he said adding that ECI was doing MoUs with bigger industrial units for this purpose.

Criminal candidates

Every criminal candidate in the fray will have to publish advertisement in newspaper prominently about the cases lodged against them three times, the CEC said.

Liquor, Cash & Drugs

Talking about the meetings held with enforcement agencies in Gujarat, Kumar said, “We have clearly said that responsibility will be fixed if any liquor enters from any border of neighbouring states. If liquor reaches central districts that do not share a border with other states, then special inquiry will be done on how the liquor consignment managed to reach a particular district.”

All enforcement agencies have been asked to keep a vigil on movement of drugs and narcotics. “If drugs are seized during polls, even officers will be dealt with,” he added. RBI and banks have also been asked to keep an eye on the movement of cash.

Meeting political parties

About meeting the national political parties in Gujarat, the ECI said it has decided to accept some of the suggestions, including that of webcasting the polling process. “We have taken note of the suggestion that candidates and parties should not be allowed to ferry voters. A single window system in the office of Chief Electoral Officer, Gujarat will also be created where all permissions related to elections can be given,” the CEC said.

Other suggestions including not using retired government personnel and private persons in the polling process was also accepted by the Commission.

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