ECI Announces 5 Phase Polls In J&K

25 October 2014
The Daily Excelsior
Fayaz Bukhari

Srinagar: The Election Commission of India (ECI) today announced that Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand will be held in five phases between November 25 and December 20 with counting of votes on December 23. Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath told a press conference in New Delhi that the polling in both States will take place on November 25, December 2, 9, 14 and 20 and counting will be on December 23. 'Bye-elections to three Assembly seats in Delhi, which fell vacant after their MLAs resigned following their victories in Lok Sabha polls, will be held on November 25', he said. Sampath said that barring one political party, all of them were in favour of polls as per schedule in Jammu and Kashmir. 'Except for one political party, most of the political parties (in Jammu and Kashmir) were in favour of holding elections on time. They said there is no reason, no justification for delaying the polls. The EC's mandate is to hold elections on time,' he said. The CEC said that the current six-year term of Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir Assembly comes to an end on January 16. He said Jammu and Kashmir Assembly has 87 seats and Jharkhand has 81 seats. In Jammu and Kashmir, seven seats are reserved for SCs while in Jharkhand, 9 seats are reserved for SCs and STs, respectively. 'Number of electors in Jammu and Kashmir as per electoral rolls is 72.25 lakhs and 207.44 lakhs in Jharkahnd. Altogether 10,015 polling stations will be set up in Jammu and Kashmir and 24,648 in Jharkahnd', he said. Sampath said: 'To facilitate the voters to know where he-she is enrolled as a voter at a particular polling station and what is his-her serial number in the electoral roll, the Commission has directed that voter slip along with Photo (wherever present in the roll) will be distributed to all enrolled voters by the District Election Officers. It has also been directed that the said voter slip should be in the languages in which electoral roll is published for that Assembly Constituency.' The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Umang Narulla told a press conference here in Srinagar that as the Chief Election Commissioner, V S Sampath, has announced poll dates and the Model Code of Conduct in the State has come into effect. 'The Model Code of Conduct comes into effect immediately after the polls were announced. The provisions of the Model Code will apply to the whole of State and will be applicable to all candidates, political parties and the Government', he said. Narulla said that the elections in the State would be held in 5 phase - November 25, December 2, December 9, December 14 and December 20 - and the counting of votes would be on December 23. He said that the polls will be held in free and fair manner and adequate deployment of security forces and Election Observers will be put in place. The CEO said that the notifications for the first phase would be issued on October 28, for second phase November 7, for third phase November 14, fourth phase November 19 and for fifth phase November 26. 'The last date for filing nominations to these phases is November 5, November 14, November 21, November 26 and December 3, respectively', he said. 'The scrutiny of papers would be held on November 7, November 15, November 22, November 27 and December 04 for the first, second, third, fourth and fifth phases respectively. The last date of withdrawal of nomination papers of these phases would be November 10, November 17, November 24, November 29 and December 6 respectively. The polling to these five phases would start from November 25 for first phase, December 2 for second phase, December 9 for third phase, December 14 for fourth phase and December 20 for the fifth and final phase respectively', said Narulla. The CEO said that counting of votes would be held on December 23 and date of completion of Election process would be December 29. Narulla said: 'The first phase, November 25, polls would be held in the 15 Assembly constituencies of Gurez, Bandipora, Sonawari, Kangan, Ganderbal, Nobra, Leh, Kargil, Zanskar, Kishtwar, Inderwal, Doda, Bhaderwah, Ramban (SC) and Banihal.' 'In the second phase, December 2, 18 Assembly constituencies of Gulabgarh, Reasi, Gool Arnas, Udhampur, Chenani (SC), Ramnagar, Surankote, Mendhar, Poonch Haveli, Karnah, Kupwara, Lolab, Handwara, Langate, Noorabad, Kulgam, Home-Shalibugh and Devsar would go to polls', the CEO said. Narulla said in the third phase, December 9, elections would be held in 16 Assembly constituencies of Uri, Rafiabad, Sopore, Sangrama, Baramulla, Gulmarg, Pattan, Chadoora, Badgam, Beerwah, Khansahib, Chrar-i- Sharief, Tral, Pampore, Pulwama and Rajpora. 'In the fourth phase, December 14, 18 Assembly constituencies of Hazratbal, Zadibal, Idgah, Khanyar, Habbakadal, Amirakadal, Sonawar, Batamaloo, Anantnag, Dooru, Kokernag, Shangus, Bijbehara, Pahalgam, Wachi, Shopian, Samba (SC) and Vijaypur would go to polls. The CEO said in the fifth and final phase, December 20, 20 Assembly constituencies of Bani, Basohli, Kathua, Billawar, Hiranagar (SC), Nagrota, Gandhinagar, Jammu East, Jammu West, Bishnah, R S Pura (SC), Suchetgarh, Marh, Raipur Domana (SC), Akhnoor, Chhamb (SC), Nowshera, Darhal, Rajouri and Kalakote would go to polls. Narulla said 72,25,559 lakh electors would exercise their franchise during the forthcoming elections. He said that there are 87 constituencies out of which 7 are reserved for Scheduled Caste. The CEO said that the ECI will look into the transfers of some of the Returning Officer by the Government and will take appreciate action. 'We have come to know about the transfer of returning officers. These transfers have taken place without the consultation of the ECI. We will look into it and take appropriate action', he said. Narulla said that as per the preliminary estimates 99 polling stations that have been hit by last month's floods in the State need relocation. He said that as per estimates the people displaced due to floods are living mostly in their polling station areas. He said that if need arises the voter slips will be delivered to them wherever they are placed post floods. The CEO said that the adequate security arrangements will be made for the smooth conduct of the polls in the State. 'It will be more than adequate. Whatever is the requirement will be provided', he added. Earlier the ECI said the poll schedule was announced after taking into the consideration post flood situation, climatic conditions, snowfall and availability of central forces. The ECI said that the Electoral Rolls of all the Assembly constituencies in the State were revised with reference to 1.1.2014 as the qualifying date have been finally published on 31.07.2014. 'After special Summary Revision, Photo Electoral Rolls of all existing Assembly Constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir with reference to 01.10.2014 as the qualifying date have also been finally published on 15.10.2014. 'The Photo electoral rolls will be used during the forthcoming general elections in States and photo percentages in Photo Electoral Rolls of State is 94.2 percent. Identification of the voters at the polling booth at the time of poll shall be mandatory. Electors who have been provided with EPIC shall be identified through EPIC. Presently, the EPIC coverage in the State is 91 percent. All the residual electors are advised to obtain their Elector Photo Identity Cards from the Electoral Registration Officers of their Assembly constituencies urgently. In order to ensure that no voter is deprived of his-her franchise, if his-her name figures in the Electoral Rolls, separate instructions will be issued to allow additional documents for identification of voters, if needed', ECI statement said. The ECI has issued instructions to the Chief Electoral Officer to ensure that polling stations are equipped with Basic Minimum Facilities (BMF) like drinking water, shed, toilet, ramp for the physically challenged voters and a standard voting compartment. The ECI has directed that the polling parties shall be formed randomly, through special application software. 'Three-stage randomization will be adopted. First, from a wider district database of eligible officials, a shortlist of a minimum 120 percent of the required numbers will be randomly picked up. This group will be trained for polling duties. In the second stage, from this trained manpower, actual polling parties as required shall be formed by random selection software in the presence of General Observers. In the third randomization, the polling stations will be allocated randomly just before the polling party's departure. There shall be such randomization for Police Constables and Home guards also, who are deployed at the polling stations on the poll day', the statement adds. The ECI said that it has already made arrangements to ensure availability of adequate number of EVMs for the smooth conduct of elections. 'The Commission has issued a new set of instructions with regard to the First Level Check of EVMs, that will be used in the poll in the State. A two-stage randomization of EVMs will be made. In the first stage, all the EVMs stored in the district storage centre will be randomized by the District Election Officer (DEO) in the presence of the representatives of the 4 recognized political parties for allocation Assembly constituency-wise. EVMs will be prepared and set for elections after finalization of the contesting candidates. At this stage also, candidates or their agents-representatives will be allowed to check and satisfy themselves in every manner about the functionality of the EVMs. After the EVMs in a constituency are prepared for the poll by the Returning Officer and the ballot units are fitted with ballot papers, then the EVMs will again be randomized to decide the actual polling stations in which they will be ultimately used. The Second Stage randomization will be done in the presence of Observers, Candidates or their Election Agents', the statement adds. The ECI said that as per the directions of the Supreme Court there should be a 'None of the Above' (NOTA) option on the ballot papers and EVMs. The Court has directed that the Commission should implement it 'either in a phased manner or at a time with the assistance of Government of India'. 'On the Balloting Unit, below the name of the last candidate, there will now be a button for NOTA option so that electors who do not want to vote for any of the candidates can exercise their option by pressing the button against NOTA', the statement added. The statement further said that the Commission is taking steps to bring this to the knowledge of voters and all other stakeholders and to train all field level officials including the polling personnel about the NOTA option. The ECI said that as per the SC directions it is obligatory for the Returning Officer 'to check whether the information required is fully furnished at the time of filing of affidavit with the nomination paper', the Commission has issued instructions that in the affidavit to be filed along with the nomination paper, candidates are required to fill up all columns. If any column in the affidavit is left blank, the Returning Officer will issue a notice to the candidate to file the affidavit with all columns filled in. After such notice, if a candidate fails to file affidavit complete in all respects, the nomination paper will be liable to be rejected at the time of scrutiny. The Chief Electoral Officers have been directed to brief all Returning Officers about the judgment of the Supreme Court and the Commission's instructions. The Commission has directed the CEO to coordinate with the officers of Tele Communication Department in the State, BSNL authorities, the representatives of other leading service providers in the State so that network status in the State is assessed and communication shadow areas be identified. The CEOs have also been advised to ensure best communication plan in their State. The ECI has directed that all critical events will be video-graphed. 'District Election Officers will arrange sufficient number of video and digital cameras and camera teams for the purpose The events for videography will include filing of nominations, scrutiny thereof and allotment of symbols, First Level Checking, preparations and storage of Electronic Voting Machines, important public meetings, processions etc. during campaign, process of dispatching of postal ballot papers, polling process in identified vulnerable polling stations, storage of polled EVMs, counting of votes etc. Webcasting, Videography and Digital cameras will also be deployed inside polling booths wherever needed. CDs of video recordings will be available on payment to anyone who wishes to obtain a copy of the same', the statement said. The ECI has directed that the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) are deployed for area domination prior to poll in order to build confidence in the minds of voters especially vulnerable voters. 'The Commission has taken various measures to ensure free and fair elections by creating an atmosphere in which each elector is able to access the polling station without being obstructed or being unduly influenced-intimidated by anybody', said the statement. 'Based on the assessment of the ground situation, Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and State Armed Police (SAP) drawn from other States will be deployed during these elections. The CAPF and SAP will be used generally for safeguarding the polling stations and for providing security to the electors and polling personnel at the polling stations on the poll day. Besides, these forces will be used for securing the strong rooms where the EVMs are stored and for securing the counting centers and for other purposes, as required', the ECI statement said. The Commission will deploy General Observers in adequate number to ensure smooth conduct of elections. 'The Observers will be asked to keep a close watch on every stage of the electoral process to ensure free and fair elections. Their names, addresses within the district-constituency and their telephone numbers will be publicized in local newspapers so that the general public can quickly approach them for any grievance redressal. The Observers will be given a detailed briefing by the Commission before their deployment. Commission may also deploy Police Observers to keep a close watch on law and order situation', the statement adds. The ECI has issued comprehensive instructions for the purpose of effective monitoring of the election expenditure of the candidates have been issued, which include formation of flying squads, static surveillance Teams, video surveillance Teams, involvement of 7 Investigation Directorates of Income Tax Deptt. etc. 'State Excise Departments and police authorities have been asked to monitor production, distribution, sale and storage of liquor and other intoxicants during the election process. For greater transparency and for ease of monitoring of Election Expenses, Candidates would be required to open a separate bank account and incur their election expenses from that very account. The Investigation Directorate of Income Tax Deptt. has been asked to open Air Intelligence unit in the airports of these States and also to gather intelligence and take necessary action against movement of large sum of money in these States', the ECI statement said. The Observers from Central Government are being appointed to keep close watch on election expenditure of the candidates. 'Control room and Complaint Monitoring Centre with 24 hours toll free numbers shall be operative during the entire election process. Banks and financial intelligence units of Government of India have been asked to forward suspicious cash withdrawal reports to the election officials', the statement said. The ECI has asked all candidates must ensure that they file their affidavits in the revised format (Form 2D) only. 'To deal with the issue of Paid News, a mechanism has been laid out with three tier of Media certification and Monitoring Committees (MCMC) at District, State and ECI level', the ECI statement said. The ECI has issued instructions have been issued to the CEOs of the poll going States to ensure briefing of political parties and Media in the districts about 'Paid News' and the mechanism to check 'Paid News'. The Commission may deploy IPS officers as Police Observers at district level, depending upon the need and sensitivity. They will monitor all activities relating to force deployment, law and order situation and co-ordinate between civil and Police administration to ensure free and fair election. The ECI statement said: 'In addition to General Observers, the Commission will also deploy Micro Observers to observe the poll proceedings in the polling stations in the poll day in selected critical polling stations. They will be chosen from Central Government-Central PSUs officials. Micro-Observers will observe the proceedings at the polling stations on the poll day right from the mock poll to the completion of poll and the process of sealing of EVMs and other documents to ensure that all instructions of the Commission are complied with by the polling parties and the polling agents. They will report to the General Observers directly about any vitiation of the poll proceedings in their allotted polling stations.'