A security man stands guard as voters stand in a queue to cast their votes in Faizabad. On February 8, 55 of the 403 assembly constituencies saw polling in the first phase in Uttar Pradesh. AP/Manish Swarup
Additional chief electoral officer of Uttar Pradesh, Mritunjay Kumar Narayan sipped coffee while watching election coverage on the LED TV in his comfortable office on Saturday. On the huge table, the 21-inch computer monitor beamed live webcast from various polling stations.
Thanks to measures like webcasting (telecast through internet) from polling booths, booth capturing may see its last soon. And for electoral officers like Narayan, it may spell less stress.
India’s biggest assembly elections, in Uttar Pradesh, are also witnessing its biggest live election webcast. It has surpassed Bihar, Tamil Nadu and its own experiment in the 2010 bypolls in Dumariyaganj.
The seven phases of UP elections would see 1,975 polling stations webcasting the polls to the state election department’s website—on each polling day. The first two phases, on Wednesday and Saturday, have already seen successful webcast. The offices of the Election Commission (EC), in New Delhi, and the chief electoral officer (CEO) of UP, in Lucknow, and of the district electoral officers of the districts that go to polls are equipped with the facility.
“We had done it once in Dumariyaganj bypolls. Bihar and Tamil Nadu assembly elections were webcast through nearly 1,000 webcast set-ups. But, UP has surpassed it all,” said Narayan.
“We are spending between R2,500 and R3,000 per system per polling day (laptop/desktop, webcams and associated paraphernalia). And the systems are connected through a broadband Internet connection,” said Narayan.
The live streaming is being done via steamonweb.com.
“We do not reveal the names of the polling stations that webcast, or which of them have micro-observers, so that these systems also work as an additional deterrence to rigging,” said Narayan.
The CEO, UP office has an observation room that has visuals projected on a wall from four different polling stations at a time. The display keeps switching the transmitting centres. There are nearly 25 people on duty from 7 am till the polling ends.
At 3 pm on Saturday, the ‘wall’ at the CEO office showed the polling was brisk, as voters could be seen entering the booths one after another to exercise their franchise.
And, Narayan was a happy man.