Will ensure TN Assembly polls to be influence & inducement

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free, COVID safe: EC Chennai, Dec 22 (PTI) A strict surveillance will be in place and comprehensive preparation carried out to make Tamil Nadu Assembly election influence and inducement free while following COVID safety protocol, the Election Commission said on Tuesday.

The commission also stressed the need to reach out also to the section of voters facing mobility issues.

The pandemic safety norms followed in nearly 60 by-elections in various states and Bihar polls will be followed in Tamil Nadu also, Umesh Sinha, secretary-general, Election Commission of India, said.

He is on a two-day visit to the city from Monday to review the state's preparedness to hold the Assembly election, due in April-May next year.

As it is vital to avert overcrowding at polling stations during the pandemic, it has been decided to ensure only 1,000 voters at each polling booth.

In case the number of voters exceeds 1,000, they will be split and accommodated in different rooms at the same polling station, Umesh Sinha told reporters here on Tuesday.

'All COVID related issues are very important.We are happy to witness a declining trend in Tamil Nadu where the infection has been contained to a large extent.

There are fewer cases now.We are keeping in mind that the issue may remain during the elections and hence it is necessary to follow the Bihar model,' he said.

Accordingly, masks, sanitisers, medical kits and ambulances, besides a ramp for the voters who are differently abled, will be ensured at all the polling booths and a bio- medical waste disposal plan will also be incorporated.

In order to sensitise authorities and to evolve a proper mechanism for holding a COVID-free election, the Bihar chief electoral officer H R Srinivasa had briefed officials earlier in the day, he said.

Umesh Sinha said elections in Tamil Nadu have by and large been peaceful but 'a comprehensive preparation will be done this time to make the entire process of election inducement-free and influence-free.' Hence, polling stations will be mapped and a strict surveillance will be in place.

'Influence by way of money, liquor, goodies or any other means will be stopped.The commission will act tough on those trying to influence the voters,' the senior official said.

The state CEO (Satyabrata Sahoo) has been asked to launch a voter awareness campaign soon,he added.

Sinha is accompanied by a team of high-level officials, comprising Sudeep Jain and Ashish Kundra, deputy election commissioners, Pankaj Srivatsava, director, and Malay Mallick, secretary, Election Commission of India.

On Tuesday, they met various enforcement agencies, and also the chief secretary, DGP, and other State government secretaries.

During pandemic times, persons with disabilities, voters who are aged 80 and those facing the issue of mobility would be given the option to exercise their franchise through postal ballots.

Arrangements would be made to facilitate such voters to cast their votes from their houses.

'This will be similar to a mobile polling station.

If required representatives of political parties could accompany the polling officials,' Sinha said.

He emphasised that the ECIs endeavour is to conduct free, fair, peaceful, inclusive, ethical and participatory elections covering even the young and the old, women and weaker sections and the differently abled while minimising the spread of the virus.

To a question, he replied that several political parties in the state have favoured single day polling and this will be conveyed to the ECI.

'It's too early to predict,' Umesh shot back when asked about the date and schedule for the Assembly election in Tamil Nadu.

'Our teams are getting the inputs and analysing various factors.Polling dates will be decided by ECI,' he said.PTI JSP BN WELCOME BN WELCOME