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Voters have right to know about fulfillment of assurances by parties; matter sub judice: CEC

NEW DELHI: The voters have a right to know about the feasibility of fulfilling poll assurances made by political parties, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar said on Saturday and made it clear that the matter is, however, sub judice.

Political parties have a right to make promises in their election manifestos and the electorate has a right to know if these are genuine and how these programmes could be funded, he said, adding the entire matter forms part of an ongoing case and the matter was sub judice. At a press conference here, Rajiv Kumar, answering questions, said the Election Commission has prepared a ‘proforma’ to make parties to make a disclosure on their election promises.

However, this aspect also relates to the pending court matter. He said enforcement agencies have been directed to stay vigilant and prevent distribution of cash and freebies. National Payments Corporation of India too has been tasked to monitor online transactions. To a query on ‘fake news,’ he said, today fake news is running as you mentioned that election dates have been announced. This fake news has, however, been countered within half an hour and it was made amply clear that it was fake.

A majority of political parties have sought single phase polls. After holding meetings with political parties during the last two days, Rajiv Kumar said ”a majority of parties informed him that many parties have commenced parking of funds for distribution to voters.” ”We met various political parties both national like the BJP, INC and state parties like the AIADMK, DMK. A majority of their demands were single phase elections, curb on distribution of money and freebies,” he said.

The parties also sought action to prevent ‘voter impersonation,’ distribution of liquor and transfer of money through online mode. During past elections in Tamil Nadu, parties have often accused each other of ‘inducing’ voters by distributing cash and gifts. Kumar today said most of the political parties in Tamil Nadu have urged the EC to conduct the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in single phase in the state. At the end of his two-day visit to Tamil Nadu to review poll-preparedness, he said the Election Commission (EC) would come down heavily on those officials who do not ensure level playing field to parties as ”in a democracy, officials should be absolutely impartial.”

He said, ”most of the political parties want single phase polling and demanded steps to curtail use of money power during the elections. They also sought disqualification of candidates who are found distributing cash during the elections or any inducement.” ”Process wise, they (political parties) have said that the bureaucratic machinery needs to be impartial. They need to provide a level playing field so that every candidate is treated equally.”

Kumar, who was flanked by senior EC officials including Tamil Nadu Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo, said the political parties suggested that the permission to poll rallies be given on ‘equal footing’ and not be ‘discriminated.’ ”Parties demanded that CCTV cameras be installed at the most sensitive booths and strong action against the impersonation during voting,” he added. According to EC, Tamil Nadu is home to 6.19 crore voters, of which there are 3.15 crore women and 3.04 crore men.

There are 1.08 crore people in the age group of 20 to 29 years and first time voters between the age group of 18 and 19 years are 9.18 lakh. Referring to the distribution of money or liquor to woo voters, Kumar said the EC has come up with a mobile app cVIGIL (Citizens Be Vigilant), which allows a user to click a picture of any incident like money distribution and assured that within 100 minutes of receiving the complaint and verifying it, action would be taken against them.

Kumar who met the top officials of the enforcement agencies including representatives from State Police, Excise department during the second day of his visit to Tamil Nadu said he has instructed them to be vigil and ensure that the elections are ‘inducement free’. ”As many as 145 check posts will be functional and we have asked them (enforcement agencies) to keep very strict vigil on inter-state borders. We have asked them to check twice and every one has been directed to take extremely stringent action if there is any case of distribution of money or anything,” he said. ”We want to have absolutely zero tolerance towards any misuse of money,” Kumar said and added that the transfer of cash to ATMs by banks should be completed before 5pm and there should not be any movement of such vans after the stipulated time period.

All the airports which are under the CISF personnel would be under strict watch all the time and even Coast Guard would be keeping a strong watch on the smuggling.

Later, responding to a query on the demand by political parties for single phase polling, Kumar remained non-committal and said, ”As regards to the single phase polling, we have taken their demand. Whenever we decide our schedule, we will keep that in mind. We cant commit (now). We will tell the press first.” On monitoring of the fund transfers through online mode, he said, ”we will keep a strong watch. I cannot tell you how we will monitor it. The banks will be keeping a watch on the accounts from where the money is going to multiple accounts. Systems have already been put into place. The services of National Payments Corporation of India will also be roped in to keep a watch.”

Regarding the use of Electronic Voting Machines and VV PAT (Voter-verified paper audit trail), he said, ”EVMs have been used in the country for 40 years while VVPAT have also been used in the last elections. There is no new system. It is exactly the same way the EVMS and VVPAT will be used, except with technological upgradations..”


SourceL: Press Trust of India

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