EC officials to visit 3 poll-bound states

A team of top Election Commission officials will visit the three eastern states starting Wednesday to assess poll preparedness there.

New Delhi: With elections to state assemblies of Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland due before March, a team of top Election Commission officials will visit the three eastern states starting Wednesday to assess poll preparedness there.

According to sources, the team headed by Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath and two Election Commissioners H S Brahma and Syed Nasim Ahmad Zaidi will review the arrangements in the three states relating to elections before announcing the poll dates.

During the visit, the full Commission would interact with representatives of political parties and discuss poll arrangements including that related to security with the district and state officials.

The poll officials will leave tomorrow for the three poll-bound states and will first hold consultations with Nagaland state government officials in Dimapur on January 3 and Tripura government officials at Agartala on January 4 and 5.

The EC team will also hold consultations with Meghalaya officials in Shillong on January 7 for assessing the state`s preparedness for the ensuing assembly elections there.

A top EC official said, "The team will assess the ground situation in each of the three poll-bound eastern states and hold consultations with the state government officials as well as assess the security situation and the forces required for conducting the elections.

"The team will also meet leaders of various political parties and others related with polls to review the arrangements for ensuring a free and fair election to the state assemblies."

A team of officials of the Election Commission has already visited the states in November and December to assess their preparedness.

The Election Commission is likely to declare elections to the three eastern states this month as the term of the three state assemblies expires in March this year.

While the term of Meghalaya assembly is till March 10, that of Tripura is till March 16 and that of Nagaland on March 26 and polls have to be conducted before these dates. All these three states each have a 60-member state assembly.

Of these three state, Meghalaya is ruled by a Congress-led coalition government while the party sits in the opposition in Nagaland and Tripura. While Nagaland People`s Front (NPF) heads the Nagaland government, the Left has its rule in Tripura.

The EC has already directed the state authorities to adopt all precautionary measures to ensure that the 2013 assembly polls are conducted in a free and fair manner in view of the heightened militancy in Garo Hills. Meghalaya has 60 assembly seats, 36 in Khasi-Jaintia Hills region and 24 in Garo Hills.

Security measures, logistics, infrastructure, border control, voters` facilitation, expenditure control measures, transportation of men and material are among the likely issues to be discussed by the EC team during their visit.

The election officials will also discuss measures to ensure higher voter turnout, especially of the youth and first-time voters, in the poll-bound eastern states, as most of the states going to polls recently have recorded impressive turnouts.