Imphal: A high level Election Commission of India team led by Chief Election Commissioner of India, Sushil Chandra, Wednesday virtually met the representatives of all political parties of Manipur and Chief Secretary, Police Chief and State Police Nodal Officer and CEO Manipur to discuss arrangements for general assembly elections.
Allying concerns of the various political parties, the Commission assured to conduct free, fair, participative, inclusive, inducement free and COVID safe elections in the state.
The main issues raised by the political parties included concerns about use of money power, illicit liquor, narcotics drugs and intimidation to influence voters. Political parties requested for strict vigil on election expenses by candidates to ensure free and fair polls.
While expressing concerns about pre-poll violence, the political parties demanded deployment of adequate security forces during the poll process and other relevant measures. The political parties also raised concerns about implementation of strict COVID protocols for the safety of everybody.
The Commission reiterated that it has zero tolerance for misuse of money or muscle power or partisan behaviour of State machinery vitiating free and fair elections. CEC Sushil Chandra underscored that strict action would be taken against such erring officials. He added that Expenditure Observers will be deployed for strict vigil to ensure inducement-free elections in the State. Chandra also elaborated on ECI’s cVIGIL App mechanism for registering complaints for prompt redressal of MCC violations as also the toll free number 1950.
The Commission assured the representatives that ECI will ensure measures like webcasting/videography, deployment CAPF personnel and Micro Observers wherever necessary in identified vulnerable polling areas, to ensure free, fair and peaceful polling.
The Commission highlighted that for the first time in the State, the option of a Postal Ballot facility would be provided during the elections for Absentee Voters which includes 80+ Sr citizens, PwD electors and Covid-19 suspects or affected persons.
The postal ballot facility is an optional facility and ensures total secrecy of voting. Representatives of candidates will be present during the process and the total procedure will be videographed. In the state, 14,565 Persons with Disabilities and over 41,867 senior citizens (80+) have been mapped.
Subsequently, the Commission discussed the administrative, logistics, budget, Law & Order and election related arrangements with the Chief Secretary and State Police Nodal Officer. The Commission reviewed the overall poll preparedness and law and order matters with the Chief Secretary & Director General of Police.
During the review meeting, the Commission emphasised focus on the conduct of safe elections with 100% vaccination of all polling staff, proper sanitisation and social distancing at the polling stations. CEC Chandra conveyed his concern to Chief Secretary, Manipur regarding the low vaccination rate in the state and asked for expediting the same.
Keeping in view Covid social-distancing norms, the Commission has specifically revisited some extant norms. As a result, the maximum number of electors’ norm at a polling station has been reduced from 1500 to 1250. This will ensure a substantially lower number of electors per polling station. CEO was directed to ensure Assured Minimum Facilities like drinking water facility, toilets with water facilities, ramps, wheelchairs, electricity, shades, etc. at all polling stations.
The Commission directed identification of communication shadow polling stations for alternative arrangements. While reviewing the law-and-order issues, the Commission directed that deposition of licensed arms in the state should be expedited.
It was directed to ensure that distribution of liquor, drugs, freebies and cash is effectively checked and the electoral process is not vitiated with unlawful activities. CEC also directed for strict vigil on the international border to ensure no unlawful transit and infiltration across borders.
The Commission also directed the CEO to ensure quick disposal of complaints received during electoral process and ensure robust mechanism for the same.
During the review meeting, representatives of political parties namely All India Trinamool Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Indian National Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Naga People’s Front (NPF), National People’s Party, Peoples Democratic Alliance participated.