Chief election commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi declined to indicate a timeline for the Bihar assembly elections on Saturday, but highlighted law and order and security on polling day as the election commission’s major concerns in conducting the poll.
All Zaidi told reporters on the poll schedule was that the new assembly would be constituted well before the stipulated last day, which was November 29. Festivals and floods would also be taken in account before fixing the poll dates.
But dwelling at length on the security aspect of the poll, the CEC promised “maximum possible” central para-military security forces (CPMF) would be deployed to ensure free and fair poll.
“The commission is in constant touch with the ministry of home affairs (MHA). Our effort will be to deploy maximum CPMF, as all political parties want the presence of CPMF at all booths,” he added.
Earlier, in his meeting with senior state government officials, Zaidi emphasized on maintenance of law and order and on the need to take preventive action, so that communal harmony was not disturbed at any cost.
Zaidi directed officials to be especially vigilant in sensitive areas, step up preventive action and execute pending non-bailable warrants of arrest. He also asked authorities to launch a spirited drive to check use of illegal arms and illicit liquor.
The CEC also called for uniform application of the model code of conduct, once it came into force, to ensure a level-playing field for all political parties.
On the possibility of removing a few administrative officials, he said: “We will take into account all inputs when the model code of conduct comes into effect.”
The BJP, for one, had objected to the continued tenure of Amir Subhani as principal secretary, home, on the grounds that he had been on the post for the last six years.
Before winding up his two-day tour of the state capital, the CEC directed officials to do vulnerability mapping and also utilize the CPMF as part of confidence building measures, especially in areas having the presence of SC, ST and minorities.
For expenditure control, the CEC asked the authorities to do a vulnerability check, identify expenditure sensitive pockets, and divide areas prone to abuse of funds, into three categories of priority.
Taking help of technology, he said, for the first time, all surveillance teams, would be tracked through GPRS so that their location could be identified.
At the district level, the CEC asked officials to publicise the continuous updation process of electoral rolls. Zaidi said that he had also instructed officials to ensure that there was no suo motu deletion of names, and that it should be done only under the ECI direction.
He also said that for the first time the voters’ list made available to candidates would be identical to the one provided to presiding officers.
The CEC also asked officials to ensure photo voter list was distributed at least five days prior to the polling date. He also said that the officials had to ensure 100% elector photo identity card (EPIC) coverage, including the 11 lakh new voters added this time.
On the conclusion of the special summary revision of electoral rolls on July 31, Zaidi said that there were 6.68 crore voters of which 3.56 crore were male and 3.11 crore female voters, leading to a net increase of 11.11 lakh voters.
He said the elector-population ratio had increased from 54% in 2012 to 59% in 2015. Bihar’s gender ratio (number of women voters as compared to men) was 875 as compared to 918 as per the 2011 census.
On Saturday, the six-member ECI team, headed by Zaidi, had meetings with the chief secretary, director-general of police, home secretary, inspectors general of police, divisional commissioners, deputy inspectors general of police, district magistrates, superintendents of police, senior income tax and excise officers.
Election commissioner Atal Kumar Joti, three deputy election commissioners and a director-general were other members of the ECI team.On Friday, the ECI team had met senior representatives of political parties.