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5-phase poll in Bengal yielded results: CEC

Source: PTI
Last updated on: May 11, 2006 10:12 IST
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Rejecting the Left parties' criticism of the five-phase assembly election in West Bengal, Chief Election Commissioner B B Tandon today said it has yielded results and the perception is the election were "credible."

Tandon said he was not unduly bothered by the Communist Party of India-Marxist's threat to take up the issue in Parliament.

"The result is there for everyone to see. 50,000 polling stations and just two repolls and two adjourned polls. No deaths, no political clashes and no bloodshed," Tandon, who will retire next month, said pointing to the changed strategy followed in the state at the micro level.

"Unfortunately based on the previous perception and complaints with regard to intimidation of voters as also reports of poll observers, the Commission had to evolve a strategy at the micro level keeping in view the situation on the ground." he told PTI.

Tandon said the Commission's change in strategy after the Bihar election to ensure free and fair polls has borne fruit.

"After the election in Bihar, we have changed our strategy from the metro level to the micro level. The new initiatives have paid and the polls were conducted without any violence and major clashes between political parties," he said.

In West Bengal, he said, for the first time, the Commission went a "step further" to ensure supervision of polling at the booth level and appointed officers to oversee that polling was free and fair.

"Five-phased elections in West Bengal was necessary. We wanted to have free and fair polls. We wanted to ensure that the voters had confidence in the poll process and there was no intimidation," a relaxed Tandon said, replying to questions on CPI-M General Secretary Prakash Karat's charge that the Commission had gone overboard in announcing a prolonged election in the state lasting three weeks.

Asked to comment on Karat declaring that his party would take up the conduct of the Commission in Parliament, Tandon said "we have no objection. Every stakeholder is free to raise an issue. Ultimately the electorate is the judge and the perception is that the elections were credible."

On complaints of the Left Front with regard to deletion of genuine voters from the electoral rolls, the CEC said while 25 lakh (2.5 million) the names of voters were deleted since they were either dead or had shifted place, an equal number of "genuine" voter names was added to the rolls.

In clear warning to those officials who could have connived in tampering with the rolls, he said each complaint would be looked into and responsibility fixed for negligence and malafide action. "No complaint will go unattended" and action taken wherever found necessary, he said.

Pointed to the contrast of one-day poll in Tamil Nadu, Tandon said experience showed that multifaced poll process in the southern state had in the past given rise to more problems as certain elements had the time to shift from one place to another and indulge in malpractices.

"The redeeming feature of these elections is a high voter turnout -- 82 per cent in West Bengal, 71 per cent in Tamil Nadu, 76 per cent in Kerala, 72 per cent in Assam and 85 per cent in Pondicherry", he said.

Another reason for holding multifaced elections in Assam and neighbouring West Bengal was that the Commission had 60,000 paramilitary personnel at its disposal and they had to be evenly distributed to ensure a violence-free elections, Tandon said.

To a question on if there was a tearing hurry for holding a bypoll in Rae Bareli, a Lok Sabha seat vacated by Congress President Sonia Gandhi in the midst of raging controversy on the office of profit issue, he made it clear that the Commission acted in "no undue haste and the polls were conducted as per accepted policy."

Even if a seat falls vacant and is notified one day before the announcement of polls whereever being held, the Commission does not want to wait as it believed that no area should go unrepresented in a legislature, he said.

Asked why there was a delay in the Commission taking a decision on the alleged violation of the Model Code of Conduct by Human Resources Development Minister Arjun Singh on the reservation issue, Tandon said a decision would taken very shortly.

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