1.46 crore voters, 70 seats: Delhi election office has task cut out

Mallica Joshi
Delhi elections, Delhi Assembly elections, Assembly elections Delhi, Delhi voting, Delhi voters, AAP, Delhi BJP, Delhi Congress, Delhi news, city news, Indian Express

The commission has already completed the first phase of the electoral roll updation process, with registrations closing on January 11. Of the 1.46 crore registered voters, 80,55,686 are men, 66,35,635 women and 815 identifying as the third gender. (Representational Image)

Seventy constituencies, 1.46 crore voters, 8,000 government school teachers and 13,750 polling booths — the keenly fought Assembly polls that will decide who governs the city from the Player’s Building will see 9.96 lakh more voters than those that voted in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The usually quiet office of the Chief Election Officer, Delhi, housed in the Old St Stephen’s Building, meanwhile, is buzzing. Officials on deputation, daily meetings and press briefings, and meetings of the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee (MCMC) has made the compound at a crowded traffic junction in Kashmere Gate among the busiest government offices in the city, considering the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is in force.

Among the most challenging, and fairly new duty, of the local Election Commission office is to track social media as part of its MCMC. “Till very recently, there were no clear guidelines on what constitutes an advertisement, what is permissible and what has to be pulled down from social media. Rules for print media are very clear as they have been in place for several years now. On television, there is much better clarity now than there was 20 years ago. But social media is so new and so participative that checking what constitutes as a violation or an advertisement is a big task. The scale of multiple entities on social media also means that what we decide to penalise will be scrutinised on a global scale,” said a senior official working on deputation with the CEO office.

The commission has already completed the first phase of the electoral roll updation process, with registrations closing on January 11. Of the 1.46 crore registered voters, 80,55,686 are men, 66,35,635 women and 815 identifying as the third gender.

The office has also identified 72 vulnerable polling stations. Security at these booths is stricter than at others, have webcasting services, more observers, and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF). The number of critical polling stations is 3,209. These booths are termed critical or vulnerable based on previous communal tensions and violent political rivalry.

“The names of these areas will not be disclosed right now. Adequate arrangements for these areas will be made,” said Delhi CEO Ranbir Singh.

Within the first day of the MCC being enforced, the MCMC committee had received two complaints against a news channel for running an opinion poll which showed that the Aam Aadmi Party had an edge in the city. “For all three parties, a lot is at stake. In such a situation, the MCMC will have to be extra vigilant. We have already started to look into the complaints and any appeals will be looked into by a team which includes the CEO himself,” said a senior official.