The multi-cornered October assembly elections in Haryana are going to be a high-stakes affair with the ruling Congress, which formed back to back governments in 2005 and 2009 under Bhupinder Singh Hooda, aiming for a hat-trick. The Congress, which faces a strong anti-incumbency sentiment, has been on a sop distribution spree. The spate of desertions by party leaders has dented party's image.
The BJP, which all along remained a fringe player on Haryana circuit has emerged as a serious challenger this time courtesy their superlative performance in Lok Sabha polls. Riding on the Modi sentiment, the saffron party won seven out of the eight Lok Sabha seats it contested in Haryana. However, its over dependence on the Modi factor could prove to be its undoing.
The elections will be a major test for Om Prakash Chautala's Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), which sprang a surprise by wresting 31 seats in 2009 assembly elections. This time the INLD is without its charismatic leader, Om Prakash Chautala and his elder son, Ajay Singh Chautala - both sentenced in the Junior Basic Teachers' (JBT) recruitment scam. Chautala's younger son, Abhay Singh who is holding the fort in their absence has been credited with the INLD's showing in the Lok Sabha polls where it won two seats.
The polls will also prove crucial for the standing of Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) and its chief Kuldeep Bishnoi. The HJC won six seats in the 2009 elections but Bishnoi could not hold his five legislators as they switched sides to join the Congress. After its poor showing in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP which was an ally of the HJC went cold on the seat sharing for assembly, leading to a break up between the two allies.
As per the Election Commission of India, there are 16,244 polling stations in Haryana. For the facility of physically challenged persons, the EC has issued instructions to ensure that all polling stations as far as practicable be located at ground floor and ramps are also provided.
Facilitation shall also be provided for locating electors' names in a polling station or a group of polling stations through helplines and facilitation centres.
The commission has also issued instructions to chief electoral officer to ensure that every polling station is equipped with basic minimum facilities like drinking water, shed, toilet, ramp for the physically challenged voters and a standard voting compartment.
VVPAT system for first time
Haryana chief electoral officer Shrikant Walgad said for the first time in the state, Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system will be used in six assembly constituencies - Thanesar (Kurukshetra), Karnal, Panipat, Sonepat, Rohtak and Gurgaon. VVPAT is a method of providing feedback to voters using a ballot-less voting system. Under VVPAT, a printer like apparatus is linked to EVM. When a vote is cast, a receipt is generated showing the serial number, name and symbol of the candidate. It confirms the vote and the voter can verify the details.
The receipt, once viewed, goes inside a container linked to the EVM and can only be accessed by the election officers in rarest of rare cases.
Walgad said in Haryana, the electors photo identity cards (EPiC) have been issued to 100% electors. Thus as per EC directions, EPiC shall be a compulsory document for identification of elector during polls. In case of those electors who do not EPiC in their possession, they are advised to contact immediately their electoral registration officer to get it.
The chief electoral officer said on every balloting unit there will now be a button for none of the above (NOTA) option so that electors who do not want to vote for any of the candidate can exercise their option by pressing the NOTA button.
For dealing with the issue of paid news, the EC has laid out a mechanism with constitution of media certification and monitoring committees (MCMC) at district, state and EC level. Also, instructions have been issued to the CEO to ensure briefing of political parties and media in districts about paid news and the mechanism to check paid news.
The EC would appoint expenditure observers and general observers to monitor expenditure, election, poll and model code of conduct, etc. Videography of all critical events including nomination, scrutiny, allotment of symbols, preparation of EVMs and their storage shall be ensured by the returning officers. Polling parties will be formed through randomisation as per EC guidelines.