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Tuesday, July 31, 2001

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Gram panchayat elections in August

By Our Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD, JULY 30. Election to 21,442 gram panchayats will be held in three phases on August 14, 17 and 20, according to the election schedule announced by Mr. K. Madhava Rao, State Election Commissioner, here on Monday.

The formal notice by the District Election Officer for the election of sarpanch and ward members of gram panchayats would be issued on August 1. Nominations can be filed from that day onwards till August 4, the last day. These nominations would be scrutinised on August 5. Appeals before the Revenue Divisional Officer against the rejection of nominations can be filed on August 6 and these would be disposed of on August 7.

The last day for withdrawal of candidature is August 8 (before 3 p.m) and on the same day, the list of contesting candidates would be published. Polling will be from 7 a.m to 1 p.m to be followed by counting from 2 p.m onwards and declaration of results the same day. Elections are being held on a non-party basis.

Responding to questions, he said that the code of conduct would be in force till the entire election process of sarpanch and ward members was over. But this code would not come in the way of programmes in the drought-hit areas like special drinking water supply schemes, work for agriculture labourers and food for work. To check misuse of this relaxation, only officials would be allowed to announce and take up these programmes and not political parties, leaders and Ministers.

In view of complaints that voters belonging to SCs and STs were denied voting right in some areas, it has been decided to locate polling booths in their areas where they constitute one-third of the total voter strength.

Mr. Rao said there were actually 21,914 gram panchayats and 2,13,191 wards, but the term of 472 gram panchayats and 4756 wards was not yet over. Elections were now being held for 21,442 panchayats and 2,08,335 wards. The total number of voters was 3.82 crores and that of polling stations 2,12,623.

The three-phase poll schedule in each district has been decided owing to the shortage of election staff and ballot boxes. As against 2.40 lakh employees requisitioned for ZPTC and MPTC polls, the requirement now is 6.37 lakhs, if it is to be held on a single day. Similarly, the number of ballot boxes available is 1,68,763 as against a requirement of 4,25,246.

All political parties, whose leaders attended a meeting convened by Mr. Madhava Rao, agreed to the three-phase schedule after these problems were explained, but insisted that polling be completed in a single phase in the entire revenue division. They were against splitting the revenue division and holding polling on different days.

The SEC was considering initiating two ``unorthodox'' methods. One was having a neutral observer other than the official posted in trouble-prone areas. Secondly, obtaining signature/thumb impression of the voter separately on a paper to be compared with the one on the counterfoil to check rigging.

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