No Central forces for all Bihar booths: EC

Patna: The Election Commission today expressed satisfaction with the arrangements for the six- phased assembly polls in Bihar from October 21, but ruled out deployment of central paramilitary forces on all polling booths, a major demand of the parties of the state.

"We are fully satisfied with the arrangements for the conduct of the assembly polls in Bihar in a free, fair and transparent manner," Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi told reporters here.

Over 90 per cent voters have been issued Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPICs), while others can use 13 alternative documents to cast vote, he said.

On the security arrangements, Quraishi said adequate force deployment would be in place for the polls.

However, he said, "Deployment of central paramilitary forces on all polling booths is not possible nor feasible."

All sensitive polling booths would definitely have central forces that would also be deployed as static forces at locations covering three-four polling booths, the CEC said.

On security measures during polls in Maoist-affected districts, Quraishi said the EC has reviewed law-and-order situation in general and was satisfied with the availability of the security forces.

He did not divulge the number of central paramilitary forces to be made available for Bihar polls.

The EC has launched a plan for expenditure control by parties and candidates, a measure starting with Bihar and for implementation in the rest of the country later, he said.

It is mandatory for a candidate to open a bank account to maintain his/her election expenses, Quraishi said.

Apart from regulating the expenses of a candidate through banks, he/she will be required to maintain a register detailing daily expenses even as the EC's micro observers with specialization in finance or accounting will be monitoring the poll expenses of the candidates, he said.

There would also be surveillance, video recording and viewing by the EC team, and monitoring of the news channels' footage to prevent electoral malpractices, he said.

The EC has directed its observers to take cognizance of the live footage being aired by news channels and treat this as formal complaints of malpractices and initiate appropriate measures, he said.

Checking of EVMs has also been done in the presence of representatives of political parties, Quraishi said, adding no complaints has been made about tampering or potential tampering by the contesting political parties.

Expressing concern for the average polling of 40-42 per cent in the state over the years, Quraishi urged voters to turn out at the polling booths in large numbers to make the election exercise a success.

The CEC likened suggestions made by some district returning officers for sending slips to the potential voters detailing their polling booths, its locations' etc with a request to them to turn up to exercise their franchise.

The CEC, who along with the Election Commissioners V S Sampath and H S Brahma and other senior officials, was here on a three-day visit to review poll preparedness, also expressed satisfaction with the communication and transportation arrangements for the Bihar assembly polls.

Quraishi also said that the EC will monitor the flood situation in the state so as to put in place alternative arrangements for the conduct of the Assembly polls in the potentially flood-affected districts.

"We are keeping a watch on the flood situation in Bihar. If necessary, measures like relocation of polling booths, setting up mobile booths and even re-scheduling the polling date will be considered for conduct of polls in the event of flood-like situation in some districts," he said.

"We have an open mind on this issue (flood situation in some districts of Bihar)," he said, adding the EC will ensure that no voter got deprived from exercising franchise for the Bihar polls.

The Gandak river had breached its embankment three days ago and marooned some villages in Gopalganj district, even as the adjoining districts like Siwan and Saran also faced a potential threat of being flooded in the event of release of additional water from Nepal.

On the demand by several political parties for re-scheduling the fifth-phase polls on November 9 in view of the 'Chhath' festival, Quraishi said that they are not in a position to re-scheduled the date of polling given the constraints under the election window available to it.

The EC had announced the poll dates, including the fifth-phase on November 9, keeping in view the 'Chhath' festivity for three days beginning November 10, he said.

"It was difficult for the EC to finalise the poll dates keeping in view various festivities during October-November and it did its best to come up with the schedule," the CEC said while reminding that the same had happened in 2005 as well.