Amidst the chorus for solution not election, visiting officials of Election Commission of India (ECI) reiterated that the commission was determined to conduct polls as mandated by the constitution and also exuded confidence in smooth conduct of the process.
ECI team which visited Kohima said this at a press conference Saturday evening when asked about the call by various civil society organisations (CSOs), including seven NNPGs, to abstain from election if no solution to the Naga political issue was arrived at.
In the briefing, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar reminded that the term of Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) ends by March 12,2023 and that the constitution clearly mandated ECI to elect the next house for forming the government before that term expired.
Kumar also explained that ECI was mandated by the constitution to conduct elections and declare results before the term of an Assembly was over. He said the commission therefore, was duty bound to complete the process before the term ended.
On date of election, Kumar said that the ECI team which had toured the states going to election– Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura – will hold consultations and would discuss the feedbacks before making the decision.
He also assured that adequate security personnel will be deployed to ensure smooth conduct of the polls.
Kumar also said the forces would be optimally deployed, based on requirements. Kumar also reiterated that ECI would not allow poll malpractices like proxy voting, booth capturing, use of money and muscle power, etc and for which, authorities have been clearly and strictly instructed not to allow these.
Regarding Ladigarh polling station under Tamlu constituency, Longleng district where voters face situations during election, Kumar said the ECI discussed the matter and directed the chief secretary and director general of police (DGP) of Assam to extend full support. He said they would also ensure smooth movement of all election-related machinery for smooth conduct of the polls.
Female voters outnumber male: The commissioner informed the media that the Nagaland has a total of 13,09,651 voters who would be exercising their franchise in the upcoming election. Of these, 6,56,035 were females and 6,53,616 males. Further, there were 7,981 service voters, 6,970 persons with disability (PwD), 36,403 80-plus citizens, 1,675 centenarians (100+) and 30,049 first-time voters (18-19 years).
He said 2,315 polling stations would be set up across the State, of which 531 would be in urban areas and the remaining 1,784 in rural areas, while there would be an average of 566 voters per polling station.
He disclosed that 10 polling stations would be managed by PwD and 196 by women, including women security personnel.
He said assured minimum facilities (AMF) like ramps with proper gradient, volunteers, drinking water, waiting shed, toilet with water facility and adequate arrangement for lighting in the polling stations.
For senior citizens and centenarians, Kumar said facilities like postal ballot at home (Form 12 D), accessible polling stations, volunteer assistance, priority in voting, etc, would be provided that would inspire younger generation to participate in the festival of democracy. Similarly, facilities like ramps with proper gradient, priority in voting, postal ballot facility (Form 12 D), sample braille ballot facility, wheelchair, volunteers at polling stations, pick-up and dropping facility and dedicated parking would be provided to PwD along with PwD app Saksham to facilitate voting.
He pointed out that besides voter ID card, one could also vote with approved documents for identification like Aadhar card, PAN card, passport, MGNREGA card, driving licence, pension document, etc.
He declared that the commission would reach out to the last man in queue for an inclusive and participatory election, especially in constituencies like 60 Pungro in Kiphire district and 44 Phomching in Mon district.
cVigil mobile App for complaints: Meanwhile, the commissioner said cVigil mobile app had been launched for vigilant voters and stronger democracy. He maintained that the app was created for alert citizens for recording and reporting any electoral malpractice and that it captured the GIS location of the citizen.
He said the response time was 100 minutes and a citizen could remain anonymous if he or she wished so without mentioning his or her name.
Candidates to publish criminal records: To learn about their background, the commissioner said affidavits filed by the candidates would be made available online on https://affidavit.eci.gov.in/ and KYC App, enabling the voters to make the right choice.
He said it was mandatory for candidates with criminal antecedents to publish information during the campaign period on three different occasions in local newspapers and television channels.
He mentioned that it was also mandatory for political parties to upload detailed information on their websites and social media platforms and in one national and one regional newspaper.
Robust mechanism for conduct of election: For proper conduct of the election, Kumar emphasised that agencies should work in a coordinated approach rather than working in silos, especially in mapping of expenditure-sensitive constituencies.
The agencies involved included police, excise department, Centre/State GST, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, income tax, Enforcement Directorate, Indian Railways, Narcotics Control Bureau, Airport Authority of India, Postal Department, Reserve Bank of India, Sashastra Seema Bal, State Level Bankers’ Committee, Assam Rifles, Forest Department and CISF/CRPF.
Banks asked to remain vigilant: Kumar further stated that ECI had directed the banks to keep a close watch on monitory transactions, especially involving cash deposits. He said the banks had also been asked to stop movement of mobile vans to refill cash at ATMs after 5 pm and that if they had to, they should have proper verification documents.
He appealed to the citizens to come out in large numbers and participate in the election. Other members of ECI team were also present at the press conference.