CEC Zaidi talks tough against biased officials and halqa in-charges ahead of Punjab polls
“We are keeping ready the list of officers who are considered to be biased, who are not neutral, [those] who are playing to the gallery... We will have their replacements [done] with officials who are neutral,” Zaidi told HT via video conference, flagging the writ of halqa in-charges as a “serious concern”.Updated: Dec 14, 2016 23:18 IST
Cautioning bureaucrats and police officials who allegedly function as per the wishes of unelected halqa (constituency) in-charges of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), chief election commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi has said that such “biased” officers will not be involved in conducting the Punjab assembly elections due early next year.
“We are keeping ready the list of officers who are considered to be biased, who are not neutral, [those] who are playing to the gallery... We will have their replacements [done] with officials who are neutral,” Zaidi told HT via video conference, flagging the writ of halqa in-charges as a “serious concern”.
Listing activities of cross-border institutions, drugs, 57 gangs on the loose in the state, and anti-social elements operating through the inter-state border, as key challenges, Zaidi said, “In previous elections, a lot of drugs, money and gifts were distributed.”
It was during the Punjab visit, Zaidi said, that the EC received information of lower-level bureaucrats and police officials going by instructions of the halqa in-charges. He pointed out that deputy commissioners and district police chiefs were directed to closely watch the conduct of these officials. “We have also directed state administration, police, chief electoral officer and district authorities that their conduct will be under watch,” the CEC said. Also the EC, he said, will place a very strong observation system at the ground level to ensure that officers work neutrally.
He further listed the key challenge of preserving the “communal fabric” of the state in context of the “historical background of militancy”.
The CEC said that to “attack” the use of drugs in elections, committees at the sub-divisional level have been formed. He underlined “inter-state movement of opium, charas, poppy husk, and synthetic drugs coming from the neighbouring states in very serious proportion”. “We have list of people involved in these activities,” he said.
WHAT ABOUT DATES?
“We have no official communication about when the Union budget will be presented… We will take a call as and when situation arise. I cannot tell if elections will be held before or after the budget. Any announcement in the budget will definitely affect the poll process.”
WHAT ABOUT DRUGS?
“These sectors (drugs, money and gifts) will be definitely affecting our task in conducting free and fair and, additionally, peaceful elections. This remains our challenge.”