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Neutrality, keyword for polls: ECI

(C) ECI member, Dr. S. Y. Quraishi, (L) deputy election commissioner, Dr. Alok Shukla and CEO Nagaland C. J. Ponraj addressing a press conference on Friday. (NP)
Staff Reporter CHUMUKEDIMA, APR 11 (NPN):
Published on 12 Apr. 2009 12:24 AM IST
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Election Commission of India (ECI) on Friday said neutrality would be the keyword for the ensuing by-elections and parliamentary election in the state and that zero tolerance would be applied to ensure free and fair polls. ECI member, Dr. S. Y. Quraishi who visited Nagaland on Friday, accompanied by deputy election commissioner, Dr. Alok Shukla to review the poll preparedness in the state said external observers have already been deployed in their respective positions and instructed accordingly. Video cameras would be used but since it was limited, digital still cameras would also be used, he said during a press conference at Police Conference Hall, Chumukedima Friday. The Commission has also asked the DCs to hire video cameras or even personal video cameras to be used by the officials purely for the purpose of ensuring free and fair polls and to capture malpractices of any kind. Dr. Quraishi said video cameras were going to be installed mainly because of the problems created by the “extremist outfits.” He affirmed that re-polling would be ordered even if there was the “slightest suspicion” that there has been some malpractice. He also said about 1000 micro observers would be deployed in sensitive polling stations. The two ECI members also met representatives of the NPF and Congress parties, the chief secretary, DGP, returning officer, assistant returning officer, DCs, SPs and DIGs earlier in the day. CEO Nagaland C. J. Ponraj was also present during the press conference. In its meeting with the two political parties separately to enable them to share their views or register complaints without any hesitations, the ECI said Congress came out with several complaints against the NPF alleging violations of the model code of conduct. The ruling NPF however did not register even a single complaint, the ECI disclosed. Dr. Quraishi said the Congress mostly complained about misuse of government machinery by the NPF to induce the electorate to vote in their favour. He said Congress alleged that the chief minister had assured upgradation of Akuluto SDO to that of ADC. The Congress had also alleged that the NPF was distributing truck loads of rice to the people and organizing community feasts. Dr. Quraishi said the Congress also suggested deployment of Assam Rifles with micro observers and video cameras to ensure free and fair polls. The ECI viewed the allegations of the Congress as amounting to inducement of voters and said proper action would be taken if the complaints were found valid. The Commission viewed the complaints of the Congress as normal saying “typically complaints are always against the ruling government.” The Commission noted that the undergrounds were not following the ceasefire ground rules where they have to remain in their respective designated camps. According to a handout from the state chief electoral officer (CEO), Nagaland as per 2001 census has a total population of 19, 90, 036. The total number of electors this year is 13, 17729 comprising of 67, 3047 males and 64, 4682 females. Gender ratio in the voter rolls is 958 females: 1000 males. There are a total of 1790 polling stations in the state.

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