Election authorities, administration braces for Varanasi polls

Under attack from BJP for allegedly adopting a partisan approach against it, election authorities and local administration on Sunday asserted that the Lok Sabha polls would be held in a "free and fair" manner here.

Varanasi: Under attack from BJP for allegedly adopting a partisan approach against it, election authorities and local administration on Sunday asserted that the Lok Sabha polls would be held in a "free and fair" manner here.

Sufficient security arrangements have been made to ward off any irregularities, they said.

BJP has been accusing the local administration of working under the influence of the Samajwadi Party government in the state and it has even demanded transfer of District Magistrate and Returning Officer Pranjal Yadav to ensure free and fair polls.

Addressing a press conference about the preparations for elections in Varanasi, which has about 16 lakh voters across five Assembly constituencies, Yadav said that para military forces have been deployed at all polling booths.

Besides, over 1,200 booths would have surveillance through CCTV cameras and the remaining close to 300 booths would have videography facility.

The voting will begin at 7 AM and would continue till 6 PM, while special arrangements for wheelchairs have been made for senior citizens and handicapped voters.

Those inside the premises of polling booth as on 6 PM would be allowed to vote even beyond this time.

The elections in Varanasi have become very high profile with BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in the fray.

He is being challenged by AAP`s Arvind Kejriwal and Congress` Ajay Rai while a total 42 candidates are contesting.
On Aam Aadmi Party`s statement about use of spy cameras by its volunteers to catch any irregularities, Yadav said that no recordings would be allowed by anyone inside the polling booths.
Even media would not be allowed to go inside the booths, he said.

About security arrangements, Yadav said that sufficient forces have been deployed to ensure free and fair voting, while 500 micro observers have also been put on duty.

The Election Commission has already appointed Praveen Kumar, a senior IAS officer and Chief Electoral Officer of Tamil Nadu, as special election observer for Varanasi polls.

Praveen Kumar, who yesterday met 12 major candidates to discuss the elections and related details, also said that the authorities would ensure that the voting takes place in free and fair manner.

The security forces deployed for the polls include 47 companies of para military forces, six companies and two platoons of PAC and state police, besides numerous inspectors, sub-inspectors, constables, homeguards etc, taking the total deployment to close 45,000 personnel.

No canvassing or display of party symbols will be allowed within 100 meters of polling station, while parties and candidates can set up their camps beyond 200 meters.

Such camps can have one table, one umbrella and two chairs, while only one banner would be allowed.

Candidates can deploy one polling agent per booth at one time, while the number of cars would be restricted to one for candidate, one for election agent and one each for every assembly constituency for the party.

Each vehicle can have maximum five persons including the driver.

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