ECI to tackle influence of money, freebies and liquor in Tamil Nadu assembly election
With Tamil Nadu notorious for the misuse of money during elections, the Election Commission of India (ECI) is preparing to make the 2021 assembly elections in the state free from the influence of money, freebies and liquor. “The commission will come down heavily on those who try to influence voters,” Umesh Sinha, secretary general, ECI, told reporters during a press briefing in Chennai on Tuesday.
“Tamil Nadu elections have always been peaceful,” said Sinha.
“But expenditure is an issue. We will make comprehensive preparations and set up a surveillance network. We had a meeting with all the enforcement agencies of the state and central governments.” All stakeholders will be involved to launch an awareness campaign for voters. “It is very important that voters deny this kind of influence,” said Sinha.
In 2019, the ECI cancelled elections in the Vellore parliamentary seat in Tamil Nadu after bundles of banknotes worth more than Rs10 crore were found in a warehouse belonging to a member of a political party. Income Tax officials had seized Rs137 crore in unaccounted cash from across the state days ahead of the Lok Sabha and assembly bypolls.
Sinha and a five-member team, including HR Srinivasa, chief electoral officer of Bihar, where elections were held recently, came to the city on Monday to assess election preparedness in the state. On Monday, in their meeting with political parties, the AIADMK government had appealed to the ECI to hold elections in April due to the severe heat in May. Though Tamil Nadu has always had a single-phase election, the DMK had urged that the system continue, referring to media reports that the state could face multiple phases. The ECI is yet to decide on the election dates but the present Tamil Nadu assembly’s term will come to an end on May 24, 2021.
Sinha also stressed on making the elections inclusive for people with disabilities. All polling booths should have ramps, wheelchairs and volunteers. Specific campaigns will also reach out to people with hearing and visual impairments, he said.
Postal ballots will be implemented for people with disabilities, senior citizens, Covid-19 positive patients and suspected patients and those with health issues so that they can vote from home. Political parties had conveyed their concerns of secrecy and safe transportation of these votes. “Parties can send their representatives to accompany our teams,” said Sinha allaying their concerns.